The second edition of Battlesystem is markedly different from the first (1985) edition -- much of the record keeping has been eliminated, combat has been simplified and the combat results table revamped, and the number of spells has been reduced considerably. A referee is no longer required.

All that aside, what is Battlesystem? This is a game which can fit directly into an existing AD&D fantasy role-playing campaign, and when in the course of the story a major battle occurs, the players can transition directly to these rules. The players might include their own characters as heroes in the battle, or their characters might even be commanders or local lords. In addition, Battlesystem can be played as a fantasy battle game unconnected with any campaign -- a point system allows opponents to easily design scenarios and create custom armies from the provided troop types.

The game is divided into three sections -- the Basic Game, the Intermediate Game, and the Advanced Game. Players can begin at any level, and progress to the more complicated rules over time.

The Basic Game

Each turn is made up of these phases:
Charge Declarations Players announce which stands will attempt to charge this turn. No charges allowed on the first turn.
Initiative Determination Players roll dice to determine which has the initiative. Charging units provide a bonus. The player with initiative decides who will be the First Player this turn.
First Movement The First Player may move his units. Charging units must move first. Missile units may take opportunity fire. Morale rolls may be made to rally shaken or routed troops. The opposing player may attempt opportunity charges.
Second Movement As per previous phase, but for the Second Player.
Melee Combat Hand to hand combat is now resolved, with players alternating in selecting which combats to resolve next. Units may attack if their bases are in contact with an enemy unit.
Missile Combat Players alternate selecting their artillery and missile units and resolving attacks. Missile units which attacked during movement might be eligible to attack again.
Units, Formations, and Movement. Stands are grouped into units of various sizes. The rules provide minimum figure requirements, as well as a recommended range. For instance, a unit of human-sized infantry must consist of at least 6 figures (two 3-figure stands), and the suggested size is between 12 and 36 figures.

Units are either in regular formation (all bases touching) or irregular formation (all bases spaced slightly apart). A unit in regular formation may also slip into column formation, a special grouping which allows for faster movement. The width or frontage of a unit can be changed during battle, though troops in irregular formation have limitations to this ability.

Movement is unit-based. Each unit of figures has a base movement rating, which can be used both for straight movement and for maneuvers. In order to make a turn, for instance, a unit would need to either use a wheeling maneuver or execute a facing change (such as a right-face maneuver). Units may also form squares, or use wraparound movement to surround their foes.

Terrain reduces a unit's ability to move. The rules provide for woods (light or dense), water (deep, shallow or swampy), roads and trails, rough/rocky, brush/scrub, obstacles (such as walls, hedges and ditches), and changes in elevation.

Before a unit is moved, the player must announce what his intentions are. He must then go through with his move, even if he can't accomplish what he thought he could. For instance: A player declares he is moving his unit to attack an enemy unit, but discovers that his unit doesn't have enough movement to get there this phase. He must still move as far as the unit will go in that direction.

During either Movement Phase, missile units (i.e. archers) may attack if they are not in direct contact with an enemy unit. Units which fire suffer a 50% movement penalty (exception: horse archers).

Before a charge can take place, the unit must succeed at a morale roll (see below) -- if it fails, the charge does not take place. Units which charge receive a 50% movement bonus. They may spend a small portion of their initial movement on maneuvering, but must then move in a straight line toward their target. Units which find they cannot reach their target this phase automatically become shaken. Charged units lose their movement this phase, if they have not already moved. Targets of a charge must start beyond a minimum distance from the charging unit. Any unit can charge.

Opportunity charges are much like normal charges, but they take place during the other player's Move Phase and do not need to be declared in advance. Such a charge can only be declared against a target unit which has moved, changed facing, or is about to move. Infantry cannot make opportunity charges against cavalry.

Melee and Missile Combat. Combat, like movement, is unit-based. The procedures for melee and missile combat are essentially the same, with this exception: in melee combat, two units are attacking and the results are simultaneous; in missile combat, the attacks are made one at a time and the results are immediate.

As a general rule, the player gets to roll one attack dice per attacking figure in the attacking unit. The type of dice depends on the creatures composing the unit. The Combat Results Table translates the die roll into hits scored -- in the range of 0-4 hits per attack die.

The opposing player then rolls one die for each hit, and compares the result against his unit's armor rating. Any result equal to or greater than the armor rating negates that hit (it didn't penetrate the armor).

Enemy losses depend upon the total number of hits scored and the number of hits which each figure in the unit can withstand. Excess hits remain on the unit, and must be considered when the unit next takes damage. For instance, if a unit composed of 3-hit dwarves is attacked and receives 8 hits of damage, two dwarf figures must be taken as casualties (2 x 3 = 6) and an additional 2 points remains on the unit as a whole.

In melee combat, not every figure in the unit may be able to participate in an attack. For troops in irregular formation, only those figures actually in contact may attack. Regular formation allows adjacent figures to fight, and properly equipped figures in other ranks may also attack (i.e. spears and pikes).

Benefits apply in melee combat if the unit is attacking its enemy from the rear, if it has weapons with longer reach than its enemy (i.e. pikes and halberds), or if it is composed of larger creatures than a similarly-armed enemy. Terrain and elevation may provide armor rating benefits, but being attacked by the flank or rear results in armor rating penalties. Charging units receive a bonus to their attack dice; so do defenders properly armed and set to receive a charge (i.e. pikemen).

Figures may engage in missile combat if the target is in front of them, in range, and if there is a line of sight. Figures more than two ranks deep in their unit cannot fire. All figures in the unit measure range from the front-center of the formation. Units block line of sight, except friendly units which are not too close. Elevation provides a range bonus. Ammunition is kept track of only in the case of rare or unusual missiles.

Attacks at medium or long range receive a penalty to the attack roll. Firing over friendly units or through limited visibility (i.e. smoke and walls) also results in a penalty. The target receives armor rating penalties for being at a lower elevation or being composed of large creatures.

Morale. Each unit has a morale rating, based on the troop type of which it is composed. A die roll against this rating -- a morale check -- must be made at certain times in the game: when a unit takes its first loss or heavy losses, when near a routed unit of higher base morale, or when about to receive a charge. A unit in good morale status may choose to retreat instead of making the morale check (unless it is being charged) -- it remains in good morale.

A unit which fails a morale check becomes shaken. Shaken units are unwilling to engage the enemy, must stop moving if hit by opportunity fire, and receive a penalty to all morale checks.

If a shaken unit is forced to make a morale check and fails, it must attempt a second morale check. If this check fails as well, the unit is now routed. (In addition, any unit may become routed if it fails a morale check by a very large margin.) A routed unit must immediately flee from the enemy. In future turns, it must try a rally roll (see below) -- if it fails, it must flee further away. Routed units cannot attack.

Size of the unit acts as a bonus to morale rolls, depending on how many ranks there are. A unit at half strength or less has a morale penalty.

Rallying attempts are made during the Move Phase. For shaken units, rallying is optional and prevents the unit from moving. A morale check is made -- if successful, the unit is no longer shaken; there is no penalty for failing this morale roll. Routed units must try to rally every turn -- if successful, they become shaken; if they fail, they must flee from the enemy. Units which flee off the tabletop are out of play.

Scenarios and Battles. The Basic Rules conclude with three scenarios:

The King Will Come
While the young Prince Dirkly was traveling abroad, his treacherous uncle Filanor has seized the throne. Now Dirkly has mustered an army and is ready to contend with his uncle for the kingdom. Two human armies battle near a river bridge. Roughly 80 figures per side.
The Marching Horde
A goblin army (with a contingent of allied orcs) is posed to seize the fertile lowlands from the civilized folk who dwell there (elves, dwarves, halflings, and centaurs). Takes place near a lake, with rolling hills and some forest. Roughly 70 figures/side.
Attack From The Swamp
Creatures from the swamplands (lizardmen, with ogre and troll allies) are marching into the lands of the civilized peoples (humans, dwarves, elves, and halflings). The human army has the advantage of setting up behind a wall. Roughly 60 figures/side.
Using the appendices, players may also design their own scenarios using a point system. Scores are given for seventeen races and eleven animals, many of which are divided into several troop types. (Orcs, for instance, are available as normal soldiers, as shortbowmen, and as crossbowmen. Humans are the most prolific type, with 21 troop varieties.) In addition, many of the troop types can be modified by adding weapons for a slight point cost. (For instance, any monster troop type can be given a spear for a cost of 1 point.)

Normally both players receive equal numbers of scenario points. However, a player who receives the benefit of a fortification must give his opponent a large point bonus. Similarly, a player receives a bonus if his opponent designs the tabletop.

The Intermediate Game

These rules are brief, consisting of a series of rules modules which players can use or not use at their discretion.

Skirmishers. Skirmish units may now be formed. Such units consist of individually mounted figures which remain widely separated on the battlefield. Skirmishers are more maneuverable than other troops, and can move more swiftly across certain types of terrain. Skirmishers may use a special form of movement, skirmisher withdrawal, which occurs during enemy movement. However, skirmish units are very light, and may not be able to stop a charging enemy.

Battle Platforms. Chariots, elephants, and battle beasts are introduced to the game system. One rider must guide the animal(s); the others can engage in normal combat.

New Formations. Units in regular formation may now use the following special formations: Shield Wall, which offers a bonus to armor rating while penalizing movement; Pike Block, which allows a pike-armed unit to move and still receive the "set to meet a charge" bonus; and Mixed Lines, which allows a unit of troops armed with both missile and melee weapons to place missile-armed troops in the rear of the formation and to attack with them.

Heroes. Unlike other figures in the game, a hero figure represents an individual (not ten soldiers). Heroes can be attached to units, or they can move using the same abilities as skirmishers. During battle, opposing heroes can challenge one another to Heroic Combat -- such combat results in morale modifiers to nearby units. The rules suggest allowing only one hero per every two units on a side. The appendix provides rules for adapting AD&D characters to Battlesystem.

Commanders. A special form of hero, a commander is the individual in charge of a unit or an army. Each commander has a command diameter, which determines which of his units or figures are "in command." Units not in command move at half speed, may not conduct charges, cannot change frontage, and (if shaken) cannot attempt to rally. Figures out of command may only roll half their attack dice. Some commanders also have a charisma bonus, which aids the morale of units in command.

Discipline. Certain creatures (including all chaotic creatures) are impulsive and may take actions despite their player's wishes. If an undisciplined unit has an enemy in charge range, for instance, it must charge unless it succeeds at its discipline roll. Similarly, an undisciplined unit which fails its discipline roll will pursue a retreating or routing enemy.

Other rules introduced in the Intermediate Game are:

Forced March allows a unit to move farther, at the penalty of making a morale check afterwards.
Firearms Primitive arquebusses are introduced.
Dismounted Cavalry Horsemen may now get off their mounts to fight.
Splitting Missile Fire a unit may now fire at multiple targets.
Facing Penalties attacks from flank or rear only provide armor rating penalties for figures directly affected.
Scenarios. The Intermediate Game provides these pre-generated battles:

Border Skirmish
The King's Army finds itself between a orc/goblin army on a hilltop and an army of reinforcements across the river. If they can take and hold the bridge, they can prevent the monsters from uniting. About 90 figures/side.
Clash in the Clearing
Lord Fallwick is tired of raids from the forest people, and leads a strong army into the forestlands. This battle pits humans, elves and dwarves against orcs and goblins. About 80 figures/side.
The Black and Red Princes have gone to war, and their armies are very dissimilar. The Red Prince has a handful of arquebussiers, as well as pikemen and halberdiers. The Black Prince's army has an advantage in heavy cavalry and horse archers. About 60 figures/side.

The Advanced Game

The Advanced Rules consist of a number of optional rules modules, as well as the Magic Rules. The optional rules include:

  • Flying Creatures
  • Undead Creatures
  • Animal Packs
  • Fortifications and Fortresses (including room-to-room battles)
  • War Machines and Siege Towers
  • Attacking with Fire
Magic. Battlefield magic consists of the inherent abilities of special creatures (such as dragons), and the spell casting abilities of certain heroes (those who are wizards and clerics).

The rules in this section cover five inherent magical abilities, 18 wizardly spells, and 14 clerical spells. Players desiring more magic may use the rules in the appendix to bring AD&D characters directly into play, with all of their abilities. However, this will require the use of a referee, and is recommended only when a battle is connected with a role-playing campaign.

Scenarios. These battles can be found in the Advanced Game:

The King's Last Stand
An assassination attempt failed, and good King Weaver has fled to his manor house in the countryside. Treacherous Prince Boris now approaches with his army. Can Boris take the fortified house? Pits about 80 figures against 25.
Army From Beyond the Grave
The evil Dark Mahon has united the Undead of the swamp, and the dwarven army of Graybrow must march to stop them. The dwarves have a special weapon -- their steam cannon. About 100 figures/side.
Assault on Dragon Peak
The White Wizard and his allies have come to battle the Red and White Dragons. The dragons have orcs, manticores, and hobgoblins to help them; the Wizard comes with a cleric hero, elves mounted on hippogriffs, and human and halfling soldiers. About 40 figures/side.

Last Updates
4 September 1999page redesigned
19 June 1996reformatted
16 April 1996reorganized
13 April 1995corrections
Comments or corrections?