Rules Clarifications

Designer's Statement

"First and foremost, the rules have been written in a non-tournament sense of direction. Take that to mean that the authors hope that you will change things according to your historical interpretations. It is very important that gaming in general is an inclusive thing. Some rules have the ability to frustrate players with a protractor mentality. Historical gaming must be inclusive for non-tournament play.

"This does not mean that we will simply take ideas and suggestions and then restructure the rules. On the contrary. We will carefully look at comments and questions and then respond. Official changes will be made and full credit will be made mention in future editions. That's inclusive and that's what the hobby should be. Don't worry if something is suggested and really contrary to historical reality, we will tell you so. However, because Holy Hack is intended to be played in local club settings, we encourage house rule interpretations.

"All of your comments will be reviewed, and some of the changes you recommend will be implemented. All are cataloged and those worthy enough, and many of yours will be, will be made available by snail mail and on line."

Q: When making a battlefield for an historical battle, what is the "vertical scale" of the game? That is, how tall is a 1" hill?

A: There is no vertical scale.  I presume that most things like hills and woods and buildings or walls block views from ground level.  So to see over an obstacle, a man or figure must be higher than that obstacle to see over it.

Things such as hills have no real height other than above.  I think what you are asking is how steep are hills, or can players place hills on hills to make them higher.  For combat purposes, charging down-hill and defending up-hill gives a bonus to units in this situation.  Hills can be placed on hills making them steeper or higher. If players wish, they can delare a hill to be disordering on one side and not another, or declare the hill gentle all round.

Terrain is not static, so player are encouraged to use their imagination when things like this become important.  That's why the entire series will be fostered by scenario books which will define such things.

new itemHere's an example: I happen to have a topographical map showing the ground contours for the location of a Biblical battle. Is there any "rule of thumb" for translating elevation into inches of height?

The significance of the vertical measurement is indeed important. To accomadate this I created things like bluffs and wadis. The magic of the Holyland has to be its terrain from the cedars of Lebonan to Dead Sea and more. My feeling was that I gave players the ability to create realistic terrain types. While John Jennyings came up with the terrain selection table reinventing my original probability system.

The problem of vision which is multiplied by various terrain features I believe is addressed. As for a rule of thumb... well I would say that the best way to go is with one of two systems. Geohex terrain is probably the best manufactured terrain that most accurately meets the demands of real terrain. More real cannot be had.

The second method which looks more beautiful is using a felt cloth with the features being placed beaneath the cloth. Various features are accented with the use of rail road scenic grasses and earth.

For real mapping I would default to the Geohex. There are many accurate terrain maps available. Generally speaking the hardest thing to do in rule writing is to address verticals. Attempt to have the terrain so it looks right vertically in regard to the figures. The more realistic mapped terrain I believe will require a larger game board. If the mapping is contoured correctly then discard the normal rule formula based on board size and pieces. I wish more gamers had the respect for terrain that your questions properly address! Thank you.

Remember that the rules are clearly written to be adapted. So if you have any particular ideas or ideals for perhaps movement modifiers or melee modifiers or even morale modifiers based on terrain, please test-play them and if you feel these make the system better, pass them on and they will be credited to you or anyone else in our forthcoming scenario book for Holy Hack as optional rules.

Q: If you have a unit in reinforced line formation, and there is an odd number of stands, where does the odd stand go? Or do you break the stand into change so both lines are equal?

A: Personally, that is exactly what I do.  Remeber you are fighting figures not stands.  I use half-stands whenever necessary.

Q: On page 7, it says that chariot units are not more than 3 stands. However, the example on the same page has a unit with 4 stands. Could you explain?

A: The number of chariots in a single unit is not to be larger than 3 models or stands.  The example in question addresses the situation where a commander or great one is attached to a unit.  Therefore a chariot unit with an attached commander can have an additional model or stand, making the use of 4 models acceptable.

new itemSo, in other words, you can add a Commander or Great One to a unit even if the unit is already at maximum size - the leader doesn't count against the limit. Right?


Q: Do leaders count against the maximum size of a unit?

A: By this, I think you are asking in computing the cost of a unit, does the commander or subordinate commanders or unit commanders pay for their figure as well as any command point cost.  The intention was to pay for all figures (see page 9) as well as paying for the additional command points for the leader.  So a unit with 12 figures would pay normal points for all 12 figures, and the additional point value for command based on the type of leader being used.

new itemThe rules say a cavalry unit cannot have more than six figures. Does this mean I can have a 6-figure cavalry unit plus a Commander or Great One? Or does it mean that I have to have 5 cavalry and one leader (six total)? Does it make any difference whether the leader is a Great One, a Lord, or just a unit commander?

The addition of a leader is determined by the type used. Personally I like to use Great Ones and Lords as individual figures or models so they can rally routed units by attaching themselves during movement. So I do not personally put them with any unit as a part of it. I do not assign higher leaders to units with unit leaders because it defeats the purpose of having a unit leader. Also it removes the ability to have a great one or lord to rally routed units.

You can consider any leader as the sixth figure in your example or it is ok to have the leader as an additional figure. You don't pay for the extra figure points as this is paid for in his morale cost which is well beyond the figure cost. So you can do it either way.

Q: On pg. 7, it says that all units can have "more than one" weapon, but doesn't say if there is any limit. The example on the same page mentions that a unit can have "1 additional weapon" - is this the limit? On pg. 10, it again mentions that an "additional melee weapon" is possible - does the extra weapon have to be a melee weapon?

A: Historical reality is important. Hopefully, people have done their own research or are using lists or scenarios which give the types of and the number of different weapons carried.  The limit is based on historical knowledge gained through research, lists or scenarios.  Many units of this period used a primary weapon, and one additional weapon such as a bow or javelin.  In any case, a player must decide which weapon is being used in the melee.  Units can use only one weapon at a time, not all.  I like to have my units have a primary weapon and one additional weapon.

Q: On pg. 10, it says that "2 handed, spears, and swords, cannot be picked as optional." Does this mean that you can't have any spears, or only that 2-handed spears are prohibited? Same question re: swords.

A: What I am saying is that these types of weapons are primary weapons and not secondary weapons.  This is a very shadey area.  In a melee a bow is a secondary weapon, for hand to hand with a sword is the primary melee weapon. Missile weapons like bows and javelins or slings are not melee weapons, they are missile weapons.  All units have some sort of side arm.  I hope I am clear.

new itemFrom the way the rule is written, it's not clear which of the following is meant:
  1. Spears and Swords cannot be picked as optional. Two-handed Weapons cannot be picked as optional, or
  2. Two-handed spears and two-handed swords cannot be picked as optional. One-handed spears and one-handed swords can be optional.

  1. These are considered primary weapons.
  2. These are considered extra weapons not primary weapons as they are less lethal than primary weapons and are used as secondary weapons when the primary ones are discarded or broken or dropped (for whatever reason).

Q: Can stands of different types be placed in the same unit? Are there any limitations?

A: Units should be of the same formation type - i.e., close order with close order (4 figures per stand), loose order with loose order (3 figures per stand) and open order with open order (2 figures per stand).  This does not exclude having lighter-armed men in the second rank of the same unit, with the front rank being a heavier type such as heavy infantry with shield. But order types are not to be mixed.

Q: On pg. 7, it says you can make a unit of mixed morale, but that you use the higher morale when they fight melees. Is the higher morale value used for all morale rolls?

A: Yes.

Q: With regard to mixed morale units, it would seem that a player could buy a unit with one high morale stand and the rest low morale stands, and get a unit which performed well in combat at a very low point cost. Is this so, and do you see this as a problem?

A: No. The idea is this: The front rank is the better of the two morale levels, with the lower morale and less well armed men to their rear.  The unit must be half and half of each, not just one stand of good men.  Done any other way this would be a problem.

Q: On pg. 7, it says that slingers cannot shoot from a rear rank of "foot that can melee." Which foot can melee, and which can't?

A: What I mean is that rear ranks of a close unit cannot have men behind them in a second rank shooting a sling.   First off, they would have to be in a less compact formation; and besides that, doing so would have the front rank getting shot by the slingers.

new itemIf having slingers in the rear ranks results in the front rank getting shot by the slingers, it sounds as if you can never have slingers in the rear ranks. Is that what you mean? Under what situation could you have slingers in the rear ranks?

There are occasions where some units might have had slingers in the unit. Or perhaps players might want to do this arrangement. To shoot, the slingers would have to be in the front rank. This would require a player to have them there, thus causing the portion of the unit that can fight to be in the rear rank.

I am not fond using slingers as part of a combat or melee units. I believe most slingers were really separate units used in support. but there are those that believe otherwise. So I have permitted units to have them able to be part of a melee unit. To compensate I have deliberately made this disadvantageous to do so.

Q: The chariot example on pg. 7 explains that the point cost for "additional" crewmen is 1 point. How do you know which crewmen are additional?

A: All extra men on a chariot or war cart besides the driver are considered "additional".

new itemDoes this meant the example on pg. 7 is an error? In other words, you pay for the crewmen as if they were their own unit, and don't use the "1 point for additional crewmen"?

I think this is a historical interpretation. I believe that some chariot units could be used as much as delivery transports as attack vehicles. When players wish to drop off men being transported on the chariots or war carts, then the player pays the extra unit cost. When they are actually extra fighting figures, then they are not dropped off and stay with the vehicle.

It's just not clear and not a mistake. So if you feel your chariot unit has an additional fighting crewman, you pay for him as such. If you believe the chariots are also transporting a unit, you drop it off and it is paid for as the extra unit with incured costs. This is a matter of historical interpretation.

I believe more than one extra fighting crewman is not tenable. Some peoples of the period might have had the driver, the fighter and one additional fighter. More than that in my view would require the use of the extra transported unit.

Q: On page 8, the definitions for Light Infantry, Medium Infantry, Heavy Infantry and Protected Infantry could be a bit more specific - it is hard for some players to know the difference between "lightly armored" (Light Infantry) and "...a bit more armor..." (Medium Infantry), for example. Could you provide further examples of the armor for these troop types?

A: The proper view of infantry is as follows. First, it should be viewed in 2 ways - first by formation, then by armor type.

With formation, armor type is not even a consideration.  Formation type means that a unit is either close {shoulder to shoulder) - normally line infantry that is the main battle line for foot.  Usually we associate this formation with the following armor types: protected infantry, heavy infantry, or medium infantry.

Loose infantry is usually in a less rigid formation and is usually associated with men that are less well equiped.  This medium infantry is not as densely packed as close order units.   Consequently Archers, Javelineers, Slingers and many tribal types of foot fall under this formation type.

Open foot are commonly associated with what is called light infantry.  Open order foot operate with the least restriction in regard to spacing. Naturally, unarmored skirmishers fall under this category in most cases. These light infantry types have little desire to make contact, unlike close and loose formations.

In the Hack Series we encourage something that I do not believe any other set of rules permits or likes.  This is that players can change their formation type without restriction.  By this, I mean that protected, medium and heavy infantry (usually close formation) can go into loose or even open order.  Likewise Light infantry can be in close or loose order.  This will give a density to fire and a greater concentration of fire.   Order, you see, has little to do with armor type.

I would also add that loose medium and medium infantry are not the same.  Most loose medium infantry is just that, and is not permitted to go into a close order, while medium infantry can open into a loose order.  You don't have to agree with this, but hsitorically it is sound and...well, that's the way things work in the world of Holy Hack and Classical Hack.

Q: How does one tell an advanced chariot from a heavy chariot? Is the difference simply due to placement of the axle?

A: An advanced chariot is a very light vehicle associated mostly with the Egyptians.   Yes, the axle placement is important.  This change made vehicles so adapted extremely mobile, and able to turn sharply without wheeling.  Also, these were physically light enough to be literally carried when difficult terrain made driving impossible.  The heavier chariots of the Syrian and other eastern peoples were anything but mobile by comparison, and impossible to disassemble and portage places.

The advanced chariot has its wheels and axle to the rear, while the heavy chariots have them centered in the middle of the body.  This means the advanced chariot cannot carry more than 2 men.  The heavy chariots are stronger in construction and are unstable in turning, to the point they might flip over.

Q: Holy devices cost much more than holy prophets, but on the face of it, don't seem that much more useful. What am I missing?

A: You are missing nothing.  Holy devices might best be compared to the B-1 bomber of our day.  Costly, and not as effective as they should be.  This is intended to reflect how little man has changed.  Perhaps there are better examples, but there is a quality to myths that should be included in the system, and this is how I chose to express the concept.

Q: Would it be correct to restate the Figure Cost formula as:

Morale Grade + Protection Value + Optional Weapon Cost = Figure Cost?

A: Well done, yes.

Q: Similarly, the Final Unit Cost:

(Number of Figures x Figure Cost) + Formation Cost + Optional Unit Commander Cost = Final Unit Cost

A: Ditto

Q: The terrain placement rules on pg. 10 say that both players alternate in placing terrain, but also say that terrain must be placed in a designated order (water, hills, other). Does this mean that neither player can place a hill until all water has been placed?

A: Yes

Q: So if a table is 4' x 4', the total square footage is 16, so each player gets 8 rolls on the terrain chart?

A: Yes, that seems correct.

Q: When using 15mm scale figures, how many terrain rolls should players get?

A: It stays the same as in 25mm.

new itemThat makes sense, since the ground scale is the same whether you are playing 15mm or 25mm. In other words, you play on the same size battlefield regardless of scale.

But if the base widths are different, shouldn't the ground scale be different for the two scales as well?

I think scale is an abstraction in any case. I find it still works out correctly, so why even worry about it?

Or are you saying it just takes more figures in 15mm to represent the same unit in 25mm scale?

No, I think 15mm figures would never have been manufactured if players just took into account figure representation rather than worrying about figure scale. 15s were just more economical. It created an entirely new market. The best value or importance of 15's is when sieges are played out. Building become more practrical (in construction & table sizes) and transport problems for the gamer became managable.

Q: It says to place Major Water from rear table edge to rear table edge - doesn't that make a loop? Do you mean to say run the water along one flank, from one end of the table to the other?

A: You are correct, it covers the entire flank section it is set down on and does not loop.

Q: What if more than 2 Major Waters are rolled?

A: Only two major waters are permitted.

Q: Major Cliff is listed as a terrain type, but is not listed on the Terrain Chart.

A: Use major hills.

Q: Can you place a cliff on a table edge which is also Major Water?

A: What would happen is this :  you would treat it like a pass, with the opening being between the water and the cliff.

new itemIn other words: If you have a cliff and Major Water on the same table edge, there has to be a way to reach the water - namely, a pass through the cliffside.


Q: Is there a maximum number of cliffs (besides 4, the number of edges)? What happens to extra cliff rolls?

A: No, but passes would have to be designated with the cliff face being reduced to permit this.

new itemIn other words, each additional "cliff" added to a table edge besides the first results in there being multiple cliffs with passes in between?

I think this is one way to create really bizarre terrain, that is often ignored by players who see terrain as counter productive. Which it can be. Some tribal armies of hill people utilized difficult terrain to their advantage. Certainly while a later writter Xonohon describes this quite well in his The March Up Country.

Cliffs or bluffs did not translate well in John's editing and redoing of the terrain designation and generation. My intension was to have players be able to create or select plateau-like terrain that neither player could get on top of or come down from. Also, I wanted to create the abiltiy to make Thermopoly-like areas. It is not as clear as I wanted, but then we are humanoids.

Q: It says that Minor Water should run "in any single direction" - what does this mean? Do you mean there should be one direction for all water that is placed? Does this mean that Minor Water cannot curve or loop?

A: No, this means or refers to the flow or direction the water runs.

new itemWhen you say that Minor Water "...runs in any single direction on the table...", do you mean:
  1. All water on the tabletop must run in the same direction - for instance, south?, or
  2. Are you only saying that on an individual basis, Minor Water must run in a single direction? And if so, what does that mean? Are you saying that streams have to run straight?

Well, Major water - a lake or sea or ocean - runs in and out-tide. Minor water probably runs parallel to major water, and eventualy run into it somewhere even if not depicted on the board.

I think most minor water like rivers do run in a specific single direction. No streams can meander in curves.

In the scenario book, there will be a speed reduction for boats going into the current and a plus for speed going with current and other things like that. This should have been added to the rules and were omitted.

Q: The rules for Minor Water explain how to place fords, but do not explain how bridges are placed.

A: Bridges were few and far between.  Fords were more common than bridges. Bridges can be set down just like a ford.

Q: Are there limits on the placement of Minor Water? Can streams intersect? Can they cross cliffs? Can they run into Major Water?

A: No restrictions are made.  I guess if a player wishes not to have a battle he can place as many as he or she wishes.  An excellent way to have a non-game or a really unusual one.  Minor water can intersect.  They cannot cross cliffs.  They should run into major water as that is the nature of water, but a battlefield might not necessarily have to depict where this occurs.

Q: Can a hill be placed where a Minor Water feature is? If so, does the water run along the hill, or go away?

A: No, the water would run round it.

Q: It says that a Major Hill is not more than "12 inches square" - do you mean 12" x 12"? or 12 sq. inches?

A: 12 inches by 12 inches

Q: What if a Bluff is rolled for, but there are no hills?

A: Then it is automatically discarded.

Q: When are Bluffs placed? During the "hills" step, or during "other"?

A: Can be selected only if hills are used, so place the hills first, then the bluffs.

Q: The Terrain Table mentions "Rolling Terrain," and the text lists "Undulating Terrain" - are these the same?

A: Yes.

Q: How do you suggest modeling Undulating Terrain? Is it necessary to model the bumps?

A: I would if necessary.  What I use for terrain is a felt sheet with the hills or bumps under the felt.  I then sprinkle train grass of different colors using a gray or tan for this feature.  People who have attended my demo games are quite impressed with this style of terrain building stating it looks real.  I learned this from Chris Hughes, who is a master in all things regarding wargaming.

Q: Where can Undulating Terrain be placed? On hills, for instance?

A: No, only on an area not occupied.

Q: The chart lists Woods and Jungle, but the text mentions only Woods. Is Jungle considered the same as Woods?

A: A jungle is a wood of sorts.  I relate this to climate.

Q: It says that Woods can be placed on hills, rises, ridges or bluffs - are these the only allowed locations?

A: They can have minor water running through them, too.

Q: Marshes are placed "beside" water features - does this mean you cannot place a marsh astride a water feature?

A: Water would have to intersect or cross through or, yes, astride the marsh.

Q: How do you imagine Wadis to be modeled? Do they have steep sides?

A: A wadi is usually a dry river bed.  It may be any number of things with steep sides or not.  Oasis are also considered wadi.  I would prefer to let people use their imagination.

Q: The Terrain Chart lists Scrub Brush, but there is no text description.

A: Treat it like a dry marsh, being like a forest of tumble weed.

new itemWhere can it be placed?


Can ambush be launched from scrub brush?


The rules (on pg. 11) are pretty specific about woods reducing range and visibility. Do the same rules apply to marshes and scrub brush?


It says that troops within 1" of a woods or marsh can see into them - how far? Just 1" deep?

Yes. 1 inch.

Q: Are army camps mandatory?

A: No, they are optional.

new itemDo they cost anything? If they are free, is there any reason not to take one?

Their cost is the loss of picking 3 other terrain pieces that players would normally have. (Terrain is that valuable to me, anyway.)

I would not have a camp if I were a tribal hill people that utitilized hills and other such terrain. I would not want to be a tribal hill type with poor line infantry, trying to stand up to good line infantry or chariots on the flat. Lower morale grade troops and loose and open infantry do best in difficult terrain. Ambush is ideal in such terrain and historically correct to some and not others.

Q: It says that settlements count as 3 terrain picks - are the picks traded before or after being rolled? Is there a limit on how many picks can be traded for settlements?

A: After being rolled for.  Exchange them as you get them.  Base the picks on numbers that divide correctly.  So if you have a 4X4 table and 8 picks you can only elect to trade up to 6 terrain pieces so that means you  must then have 2 normal terrain pieces.

new itemSo you're saying that the process goes like this:
  1. We see our table size, and know how many rolls to make (let's say 8 picks each).
  2. We start rolling on the terrain generation chart. Let's say I roll:
    • clear
    • gully
    • 2 x scrub brush
    • bluff
    • dune
    • major water
    • minor hill
  3. I can then decide to trade (for instance) a clear and two scrub brushes for one settlement. And I could trade the bluff, dune, and minor hill to get another settlement.
Did I get it right?

I think so. You see, you must successfully get a piece to trade a piece. But I don't like to be too dogmatic . If players wish to agree that if a player picks a camp site and this still eliminates 3 pieces, it's ok just to set it out reducing the total number of pieces by 3 for that player. This would be important when players wish to use the settlement as an objective to be captured for victory conditions. (Like at Qadesh.)

new itemQ: One of our readers wrote to suggest that "Hacking by the Book" (the subtitle of Holy Hack) was disrespectful of the Bible. He pointed out that the scriptures are not a battle manual, and that "An Eye for an eye and a Tooth for a tooth" might have been more appropriate for the Old Testament period covered by these rules. We asked the author for his comments.

A: Both my wife and myself meant no disrespect by selecting this subtitle. We harbor no disrespect. You are certainly correct in your comment that the Bible, whether Old Testament or New Testament is not a "Battle Manual"! Certainly both testaments are filled with more love than war. Also, you are correct in your comment on the spiritual nature of scripture in regard to the ongoing war of what the Dead Sea Scripture so wonderfully recount in the book contained therein called The War of the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness. Which is both a spiritual and temporal manual. The conflict within man to fight evil is an ongoing war, but not without end.

We did not pick although we considered the title "an eye for an eye," but we did not feel it was reflective of the spirit of Judaism or the Old Testament (O.T.). Jews, I believe, have the same "love not war" message as Christians. It is just perceiveved differently or not completely understood because we stand differently in history.

You are very astute in your reasoning. While our subtitle might seem flippant, it was not selected just for its obvious humor (?). New Testament (N.T.) scripture says we grow in spirit and we grow in stages. So please take it in that sense. Some of us will never get beyond reasoning that the word of God is a means and a reason or justification to wage war. Others will go far beyond this limited reasoning and come to know the true spiritual meaning of the scriptures. So we feel that everyone will interpret the title at his or her own level. Those with a great understanding will see the multi-faceted nuances of it.

We do understand that in our modern culture, on both sides of the ocean, it is wise to occassionally require clarification of meaning. Thank you for having the courage to ask our meaning.

The O.T. is a source of great wonder. It asks many questions and presents problems we have yet to answer or to solve. The Christian hemanuetic (don't trust my spelling) or view of the O.T. is certainly one that might consider the O.T. as a book expressing God's early designs for man, with the coming of Christ as a new level for man to rise to. While our Jewish brethren would justifiably be offended at this view of the Christ, it is without malice to our Jewish brethren; a common belief held by Christians. Some unfortunately mean it to be offensive, while those of a better heart and freer spirit impose this belief only on themselves and not others. We must respect all views of all people (perhaps excluding devil worship) even when we do not view things exactly alike.

(Comment by my wife and important helpmate Lynne: "The Israelites, Moslems & Christians have been known as 'People of the Book' and that is the reference I had in mind with the subtitle.)

Well in closing, we mean no disrespect, and with the extreme success of Holy Hack - Hacking By the Book I think it a sign that God liked it too. Certainly if he were unhappy with it, it would have fallen flat.

Last Updates
30 January 1999further clarifications
sub-title explanation
5 April 1998page first published
Comments or corrections?