A Detailed Description

The intent of this game design is to provide, not "...a collection of special rules to simulate the details of a conflict in a narrow slice of time and space...", but "...a broad set of principles which, in proper combination, can reasonably capture the essence of most pre-gunpowder historical battles and even fantasy encounters..." Robert's Rules of Warfare was also designed to be relatively quick-playing.

The Stands

The number of figures per stand, and the size of that stand's base, depend upon the figure scale chosen (15mm or 25mm) and the Troop Type of that stand:

"Heavier" units fit more figures per stand, and they have shallower base depths (the depth of base is a measure of the swiftness of the troops, heavier troops being slower). For instance, there are 4 figures on a stand of heavy foot, compared to 3 figures on a medium foot stand. Skirmishers are the lightest units of all, with only 1 figure per stand.

Each stand is also assigned three combat values: Attack Value (AV), Defense Value (DV), and [optionally] a Missile Attack Value (MAV). The format is AV-DV (MAV), so that a "5-4 (3)" stand has an Attack Value of 5, Defense Value of 4, and a Missile Attack Value of 3.

The combat values are based upon the number of figures per stand, modified by weapons and armor.

FOR EXAMPLE: A stand of troops armed with short, thrusting spears and shields if mounted as heavy foot would have 4 figures to the stand. Each figure provides 1 point of AV and DV, +1 AV for the spears (Class B weapon), and the shield saves the stand from receiving a DV penalty. Attack Value is ( 4 figures x 1 AV ) + 1 AV bonus = 5 AV. Defense Value is 4 figures x 1 DV = 4 DV. The stand does not have missile weapons (we assume they don't throw their spears), so Missile Attack Value is 0. The stand is recorded as a "5-4."
Point Cost. Each stand has a Point Cost, which -- depending upon the scenario being played -- may determine how much the stand costs from the player's allotment for his army, and the victory point value if that stand is eliminated during play.

Base Point Value is determined by Troop Type, with a few modifiers applied due to weapons and armor. For instance, medium foot stands are worth 5 points, while each heavy foot stand is worth 10 points. However, if those units were equipped with pikes, there would be a 50% increase in their point cost; but we could get a -40% decrease by giving them poor armor.

Points may also be spent to purchase special Attributes for stands. Or points can be saved, if disadvantageous Attributes are selected. The possibilities are:

EliteProvides a bonus when the stand attempts certain actions. Also qualifies the stand for difficult actions which require special training (such as wheeling or retrograde motion).
MilitiaThis stand is less likely to be successful at actions, and cannot form into a square.
FanaticImmune to most morale problems.
GuardHighly motivated troops, with a bonus to morale.
UnreliablePoorly motivated troops, with a penalty to morale.
ReluctantThese unfortunates are less likely to charge or countercharge when ordered to do so.
SwiftMore likely to succeed at actions, and they receive a movement bonus.
EagerEager soldiers must attempt to charge or countercharge enemies which are close at hand, and they receive a bonus when attempting to countercharge or pursue.
ImpetuousThese stands are automatically Eager, and also receive a bonus to AV when charging. They are adept at overruns. Impetuous troops become Vulnerable when charging.
ShockMay receive an AV bonus when charging, depending upon the terrain.
VulnerableSuffer a penalty when falling back before an enemy attack.
Some Attributes do not have to be paid for, but come automatically with the selected Troop Type. For instance, all Heavy Mounted troops receive Shock at no additional cost.

FOR EXAMPLE: Let's find the point cost for the spearmen from the previous example. As heavy foot, their base cost is 10 points, and no modifiers for armor or weapons apply. But suppose that we make these same troops Swift (+10%) and Impetuous (+40%), raising their cost by 50% to 15 points. If we didn't want to pay that cost, we could also make them Militia (-50%), which would cancel out the increased cost and bring us back to 10 points per stand.
Forming Units. All stands must be formed into units prior to play. Each unit must be composed of identical stands.

The player must first decide if the troops are to be Formed or Unformed. (Skirmishers must always be Unformed.) Only Formed stands may be grouped into large units. Unformed units are always composed of a single stand. When determining the total Point Cost for an army, a premium is paid for each Formed unit, but no extra cost applies to Unformed units.

Each stand has a Size Cost depending upon its Troop Type. Each Formed unit has a maximum and a minimum Size Limit, depending upon the stand's Training Level. (All stands are at Regular Training Level, unless the Elite or Militia Attributes were purchased.) Highly trained units are generally smaller than poorly trained units. Minimum Size does not apply to artillery or battle platforms. All unit sizes are doubled if playing in 15mm scale.

FOR EXAMPLE: Returning to our spearmen of previous examples, let's assume that we want Formed troops, but then make them Militia to save on point costs. Each heavy foot stand has a Size of 4. A Militia unit must have a total size somewhere between 16 and 36. Dividing by 4, this means our unit must consist of 4-9 stands. All of this assumes we're using 25mm figures; if 15mm figures are used, unit size doubles to 8-18 stands.
Captains and Generals. Lastly, an army can include two types of leader stands, subject to how many points the player wants to spend purchasing them.

Each General must be attached to a unit, and his stand is considered to be a stand of that unit's type. A General's major function is to help Formed units perform actions, but he can only help during certain points of the game, and only with units which are within 6". A General also has the same effect as a Captain for the unit he is attached to.

Captains can either be attached to a Formed unit, in which case they provide bonuses to that unit for morale and action purposes; or the Captains can roam free, in which case they can help extend the command range of a general.

FOR EXAMPLE: Suppose that both players have been given 350 points with which to build armies. If we buy a General (60 pts), plus a Captain (20 pts), plus our Militia Spearmen (9 stands x 10 points, plus 4 points for being a Formed unit = 94 points), that gives us a subtotal of 174 points.

Let's balance our army by taking some heavy cavalry. The base stand cost is 10 (mounted troops), plus 20% (we give them lances), +60% (plate armor and shield), and +20% (elite), for a final cost of (+100%) 20 per stand. Heavy Mounted stands are Size 4, and Elite units must (in 25mm scale) be no larger than Size 12 (there is no minimum, though if we make 1-stand unit we might confuse it with Unformed troops). We take two 3-stand units, for a cost of 3 x 20 + 4 (the Formed unit surcharge) = 64 points x 2 = 128 points. New subtotal: 302 points.

That leaves 48 points, enough to purchase 18 Skirmishers (2 points apiece) and a small bolt-shooter (12 points).

Sequence of Play

Each turn is composed of two half-turns, each of which consists of five phases. During each half-turn, one player is the Acting Player, and the other is the Reacting Player. The phases in each half-turn are:

Action PhaseThe Acting Player may move and maneuver his units. Future charges must be declared.
Reaction PhaseThe Reacting Player may order his units to attempt to countercharge, change formation or facing, or attack with missile weapons.
Assault PhaseThe Acting Player may attempt missile attacks.
Charge PhaseCharging (and countercharging) units advance into contact (unless countermanded).
Combat PhaseCombat between units in contact is mandatory. The Acting Player chooses the order in which to resolve combats.
During each phase, units may attempt to perform the Actions which are allowed in that phase. (The Action Phase seems misnamed, considering that Actions are performed in all phases.) Certain Actions are automatic, while for others, an Action Roll must be made. A General can intervene to provide an automatic Action for a unit in command range, but the Action must be the unit's first in the current phase.

Elite and Swift units receive a bonus when making Action Rolls, while Militia, Demoralized, and Disrupted units receive a penalty. Once a unit fails an Action Roll, it may attempt no further rolls in the current phase.

A unit must remain organized in order to perform efficiently on the battlefield. Stands which become separated from the main body of their unit must make individual Action Rolls in order to perform an Action. Similarly, a unit involved in melee combat is harder to control -- Action Rolls must be made for each column within the unit, rather than for the unit itself.

FOR EXAMPLE: During an Action Phase, we want to order our Spearmen to march forward and deploy in line, and we want one cavalry unit to charge an isolated unit of enemy crossbowmen.

First, we order our spearmen to take a Movement Action. This is a Militia unit (-1 to Actions), but it is Swift (+1 to Actions, and +1" movement) and has a Captain attached (+1 to Actions), for a final modifier of +1. Rolling two dice, we get a total of "8" + 1 (modifier) = 9, which equals or beats the required threshold number (8). So the spearmen move.

In our case, however, we only want them to move another two inches, and then we want them to face left. Unfortunately, the Spearmen will continue to move unless we succeed at a Stop Action. (Success would be automatic if this were not a Militia unit.) The same modifiers apply, and we roll a "5" -- not enough, and our Spearmen march to the full extent of their ability (4") toward the enemy. We can't stop them, since no further Actions may be attempted once the unit has failed an Action Roll this phase.

Now, let's deal with the cavalry. Before doing anything, it is prudent to pre-measure the distance to make sure our enemy is in range. (Yes, the rules specifically allow this.) Not wanting to leave anything to chance, we choose to Move the cavalry by using the General's free Action (he is attached to the other cavalry unit, which is within 6" of this unit). Therefore, no Action Roll is necessary, and the cavalry move to within a base-depth's distance of their enemy.

Movement and Formations

During his Action Phase, the Acting Player can maneuver his units around the field of battle. The available Actions this phase are:

MovementAllows units to move. Militia must move straight ahead; Regular troops can perform sideways shifts while marching forward; and Elite stands are eligible to shift faster and to wheel.
StopThe only way to stop a Movement Action (short of bumping into the enemy, that is). Until Stopped, a unit will continue to march (the Movement Action even carries over into future half-turns). Fortunately, Stopping is an automatic Action for Regular and Elite units.
About FaceAdjust all the stands in the unit to face in the other direction. Swift units automatically succeed at this Action.
Change FaceAdjust all the stands in the unit to turn 90 degrees to right or left (but not both). Player may also be allowed to adjust his formation slightly.
RetrogradeOnly Elite units may attempt this. Allows unit to march in a direction opposite to its facing (useful when withdrawing from combat).
Change FormationAllows a player to adjust the positioning of stands within a unit, though restrictions apply.
During the Reaction Phase, the Reacting Player may attempt those Actions which change facing or formation. However, the Movement and Retrograde Actions are only allowed during the Action Phase.

No unit can use any of these Actions in order to move into contact with an enemy unit with which it was not already in contact. If any stand within the unit moves within that stand's base depth of an enemy Formed stand, a Movement Action stops. Nor can a unit change its formation in such a way as to come into contact with a new enemy.

Skirmishers. Each Formed stand can "hide" one Skirmisher stand within it. The hidden skirmishing stands travel within the host unit automatically as it moves, and are immune to all combat results. (A Captain stand attached to a unit is treated in the same manner.)

When a Skirmisher stand is not hidden, it has the ability to move through friendly units (and friendly units can move through it).

Enemy units can move adjacent to Skirmisher stands during a Movement Action, forcing the Reacting Player to immediately make a Withdrawal Action attempt for each involved Skirmisher stand. If the Action Roll succeeds, the Skirmisher may retreat; otherwise, the Skirmisher is lost. Regardless, the enemy unit may continue its movement, minus a penalty for the contact.

Missile Fire

Missile Fire occurs at two points during the half-turn: the Reaction Phase, when the Reacting Player can attack; and the Assault Phase, when the Acting Player can fire. During the Action Phase, Formed troops automatically succeed at Missile Fire Action Rolls; during the Reaction Phase, Unformed troops automatically succeed.

Only one Missile Fire Action can be taken per stand per phase. Artillery fire is considered Missile Fire, and the same rules apply.

If a missile-weapon-armed stand is in contact with the enemy, it cannot attack (unless it is a battle platform attacking the adjacent unit). If a unit intends to fire at more than one enemy unit, then Action Rolls must be made for each column in the firing unit rather than for the entire unit.

When Skirmishers succeed individually at a Missile Fire Action Roll, they can then combine to attack as a fire group (up to four stands). All stands in the group must attack the same target stand, and each member must be within 1" of another member of the fire group.

If the Missile Fire Action is successful, attacks are then resolved stand by stand. A stand can attack its target if the target is in range; Formed stands can attack only if the target is within their firing arc. When the line of fire is traced from attacker to target, if any other unit (friendly or enemy) comes within 1/2", the line of fire is blocked. However, certain missile weapons can fire over other units, and elevation changes may make it possible to overfire units.

Normally, a Missile Fire Action allows each eligible stand to make one attack. However, Elite units equipped with certain missile weapons can make two attacks; units equipped with "slow" weapons can only attack during every other half-turn. Some weapons receive a bonus when attacking armored units, while others have extended firing arcs.

For each attack, two six-sided dice are rolled. The result is modified by the attacker's MAV and the defender's DV, terrain, size and troop type. A modified result of "7" or higher causes the target to become Disrupted; a result of "11" or higher also scores a hit on the target.

Disruption occurs only as a result of Missile Fire -- for the duration of that half-turn, the afflicted stand becomes Reluctant. In addition, the DV of the stand is temporarily reduced by one.

FOR EXAMPLE: In our previous example, a heavy cavalry unit was charging an exposed unit of crossbowmen. During the Reaction Phase, the bowmen desire to fire at their nearby enemy.

The Missile Fire attempt is automatic for the crossbowmen, since they are Formed troops firing in the Reaction Phase. However, only their first row is eligible to fire (the first row blocks the line of fire of subsequent rows); similarly, only the front row of the cavalry can be targeted. (However, if the archers had been equipped with longbows instead of crossbows, the front row could have overshot the front cavalry row and hit subsequent rows...if there had been any.)

Since the crossbowmen are arranged in two rows of 5, and the cavalry in 1 row of 3, this leaves 5 crossbowmen able to fire on 3 stands of cavalry. Two attacks are made on the end cavalry units, and one attack on the central stand. (Due to their firing arcs, the crossbowmen on the ends can't fire on the central cavalry stand.)

Modifiers which apply to the Attack Roll are: +3 (crossbowmen MAV), -4 (cavalry's DV), +1 (armor-piercing bonus), +1 (target's size), +1 (mounted target), for a final modifier of +2.

The attacker rolls for five attacks, scoring 6, 11 [the left enemy], 8 [the central enemy stand], and 12 and 6 [the right enemy]. Considering the +2 modifier, this means that every attack scored a Disruption (7 or greater), and two attacks scored a hit (greater than 11). So all of the cavalry stands are Disrupted, and 2 hits are scored against the cavalry unit itself.


Under Robert's Rules of Warfare, charging is pretty straight forward. During the Action Phase, units which move within a distance of an enemy stand equal to the moving unit's base depth must immediately stop. The Acting Player may declare that any of these units will attempt to close with the enemy during the next Charge Phase.

During the upcoming Reaction Phase, the Reacting Player may attempt Countercharge Actions. Only Shock and Eager units may countercharge; in fact, Eager units must attempt the Action. Skirmishing stands "hidden" within a stand can use a Countercharge Action in order to emerge and form a skirmish line.

Another response to a feared charge is to take a Set Action, which allows units equipped with spears, pikes, or polearms to prepare against attack. Defending units may do this during the Reaction Phase, and attacking units may do so during the Assault Phase. Charging units which take a Set Action forfeit their charge.

In the Charge Phase, the Acting Player's units which declared charges, and the Reacting Player's units which succeeded at Countercharge Actions, may charge. In fact, units must charge unless a Countermand Action is successfully taken. However, Reluctant stands must pass a Morale Check in order to lead an charge.

Charging units are moved a distance equal to their base depth, which is ordinarily enough to bring the unit into contact with its target. In the event of a countercharge, the two units meet halfway.

If the charging unit runs into Skirmishers, the Skirmishers must attempt to Withdraw, and the charging unit suffers a movement penalty per skirmisher stand contacted (which could prevent the chargers from reaching their target).

If the enemy has been contacted, combat will be resolved in the Combat Phase.

FOR EXAMPLE: In our previous example, missile fire from the defending crossbowmen had successfully Disrupted the charging cavalry. This means that the cavalry are now Reluctant, and must pass a Morale Check in order to charge.

No modifiers happen to apply to this Morale Check, so the Acting Player must simply tie or beat a "7" on two dice. He rolls an "8," and the cavalry moves into contact. (If he had failed the Morale Check, and if some but not all of his front-line stands had been Disrupted, then some would have charged while others remained behind -- the only way to prevent this would be to try a Countermand Action, to keep everyone from advancing.)

Melee Combat

During the Combat Phase, all stands in contact with the enemy must attack. The order in which combat is resolved is up to the Acting Player. If the Acting Player can kill off an enemy stand before its time to attack, that attack is lost; however, if two stands are facing each other, their attacks are considered simultaneous.

Attacks require no Action Rolls. The procedure is identical to that used for Missile Fire, through the modifiers and results are different -- two dice are rolled, modifiers are applied (including the attacker's AV and the defender's DV), and the modified result determines the outcome. Combat modifiers apply due to situation (i.e., attacking uphill, Shock troops charging), weapon type (i.e. bonus for being supported by a second rank of spearmen, or pikemen set to receive a charge), and terrain.

In the event of a simultaneous combat, both sides make attack rolls, but only the higher roll counts.

Any result of "7" or greater means the defender is Pushed Back; higher scores inflict one or (if high enough) two hits.

When a stand is Pushed Back, its entire column must retreat one base-depth, if possible. (Certain types of stand may be limited in their ability to retreat, such as artillery and Vulnerable stands.) A stand attacked in the flank or rear -- that is, with the side or rear edges of the stand in contact with the front edge of an enemy stand -- cannot retreat.

Pursuit. When a Push Back is scored, the successful attacker may then attempt a Pursuit Action. Impetuous units must attempt to Pursue. The decision to Pursue must be made immediately, before other combats are resolved.

The Pursuit is automatically successful if the enemy was unable to retreat; otrherwise, an Action Roll must be made. If the Action is successful, the stand's column may charge up to one base-depth. Adjacent columns with no close enemies may also pursue, and in a chain reaction effect, columns adjacent to those columns can similarly advance, ad infinitim.

If the advancing stand makes contact with the enemy, it may make a free Attack Roll. If the stand has sufficient leftover movement after its advance, it scores an Overrun (which grants bonuses to the Attack Roll). A different combat results chart is used for Pursuit Attacks, resulting in 1-3 hits on the enemy unit (but no additional Pushed Back results).

Breakthroughs. If an enemy unit is removed from play, friendly units that were in contact with that unit are considered to have made a Breakthrough. Even though it is the Combat Phase, they can immediately attempt any of the Actions normally conducted in the Action Phase (including Movement).

FOR EXAMPLE: During the Charge Phase, our cavalry unit from the previous example has closed with the crossbowmen. Now it is the Combat Phase, and melee combat must be resolved.

Only three pair of stands are involved (the outer crossbowmen on the front row are not in contact). Each of these pairs is a separate combat. Because the opposing stands face each other, combat is resolved simultaneously.

For the cavalry, their Combat Roll modifiers are: +5 (cavalry's AV, including lances), -2 (crossbowmen's DV), +1 (shock unit charging), for a final modifier of +4.

For the crossbowmen's attack, the modifiers are: +3 (their AV), -4 (cavalry's DV), +1 (enemy is Disrupted), for a final result of +0.

The Acting Player chooses to resolve the central attack first, and the dice are rolled. For the first attack, the cavalry dice are 8 modified to 12, vs. the archer' roll of 3. The lower of the two results of a simultaneous attack is ignored. The "12" scores one hit and a Push Back against the archers.

The archer stand retreats (as does the stand behind it), and the Acting Player immediately calls for a Pursuit (knowing that his cavalry, with their deeper base, can keep up with the fleeing enemy). Modifiers to his Action Roll are: -1 (Disrupted), +1 (Elite), and +1 (mounted unit attempting to Pursue), for a final modifier of +1. On a roll of 7, modified to an 8, he just barely succeeds...

The cavalry stand advances, but does not have sufficient leftover Movement to qualify for an Overrun. Modifiers to the Pursuit Combat Roll are the same as per the last combat, except that the Charge Bonus no longer applies, and the lances were lost in the initial contact (bringing the AV down by 1). The new modifier is +2.

The Acting Player rolls a "11," modified to "13" -- resulting in 3 more hits against the crossbow unit.

Now the attacker chooses to resolve the lefthand attack. He rolls a "4", modified to a "8", versus the Reacting Player's roll of 9, no modifiers. Only the "9" counts. The cavalry stand is Pushed Back.

However, the cavalry -- due to being a Heavy Mounted unit type, which is automatically a Shock unit -- is Vulnerable during a charge. What this means is that the stand might not be able to retreat its full base depth, as it normally would. An Action Roll is required.

Modifiers to the Action Roll are: -1 (Disrupted) and +1 (Elite), for a net result of no modifier. The dice are rolled -- "4", a failure. The stand only retreats half of the normal distance.

The Reacting Player must now decide whether to Pursue. Normally, his crossbowmen would be unable to catch up with the cavalry, but the Action Roll failure has left them just barely in reach. He tries the Action Roll to Pursue.

There are no applicable modifiers, so the Reacting Player must simply tie or beat an "8." He rolls the dice -- a "3," failure, no pursuit.

(Even though the pursuit was a failure, the Reacting Player can take some satisfaction in seeing one cavalry stand out of contact with the main body of its unit, which may cause future problems...)

Next, the righthand attack. The Acting Player rolls a "6," modified to a "10," versus the Reacting Player's unmodified "6." The "10" counts, scoring one hit and a Push Back.

Again, the Acting Player attempts to Pursue. The modifiers are the same as given before. On a roll of "8," he again succeeds. The Pursuit Combat Roll is modified as given previously. On a roll of "13," modified to "15," the crossbowmen are savaged by 3 more hits.

Casualties and Morale

Each unit has a number of Hits equal to twice the original number of stands in the unit. Hits are lost as a result of Missile and Melee Combat.

When a unit has lost half of its Hits, it becomes Demoralized. (Exception: Fanatic units are never Demoralized.) Demoralized units suffer penalties on Action, Combat, and Morale Rolls, as well as a movement penalty.

Once a unit is Demoralized, each additional hit removes one stand from the unit.

At the end of the Combat Phase, a Break Check must be made for any units which have lost stands during the phase. This is a Morale Roll modified by the number of stands just lost, plus leader or Attribute effects. If the roll fails, the unit routs and is removed from play.

When a unit routs, other nearby friendly units may be forced to make Break Checks. Fanatics are immune to all this, nor do Formed units care when Unformed units rout. The good news is that units never make more than one Break Check per phase, regardless of how many units rout around them -- limiting the potential for chaos.

If these other units fail their Break Checks, they take one hit per stand in the unit (which, for a Demoralized unit, causes a rout and destroys the unit). Units which survive the damage are considered to be broken. Any broken unit which loses stands as a result of breaking must next make a new Break Check, due to losing the stands...

If a unit is destroyed not by a Morale Result, but through normal combat, no Break Checks are required. As the designers explain, "...troops that bravely die where they stand do not cause the kind of panic that a fleeing mob does."

Whenever a unit with an attached leader takes a hit, the Leader must make a Break Check. If the roll is failed, the Leader routs and is removed from play, and nearby units must now attempt Break Checks. Similarly, units must make Break Checks if an unattached Captain is eliminated.

FOR EXAMPLE: How are the example units holding out so far? The cavalry unit consists of 3 stands, and so has a Total Hit score of 6 (twice the number of stands). It took 2 hits from Missile Fire (one more hit will Demoralize the unit -- if only the archers had scored one more hit!). The Disruption effects go away at the end of this half-turn.

The crossbowmen are a 10-stand unit, for 20 Total Hits. They have taken 8 hits so far, not enough to Demoralize them...yet.

The Fantasy Rules

Robert's Rules of Warfare also includes provisions for handling fantasy battles of the type that "...are still mostly determined by the line troops, and not by powerful player character types."

The additional rules include:

Optional Rules

The rulebook ends with several Optional Rules, some of which apply only to certain circumstances, and others of which are "experimental and have not been sufficiently play tested..." The new ideas include:

Last Updates
19 June 1996reorganized
6 April 1996reorganized
Comments or corrections?