Fantasy Rules!


First Edition Reviews

Kevin Wilson (

Okay, first of all, I was very pleased with the price. US$12.95 for the main set, and US$9.95 for the expansion. US$25.00, more or less, with tax. The rules sets come in plastic bags, and are very much no frills. The pages aren't bound together (which I have mixed feelings on), and the only photographs you'll see are two pages of fairly low quality photocopies.

Yes yes, it doesn't sound like much, but it gets better. The rules are printed on very heavy paper in a nice large font, and the diagrams are clear and large (as well as being collected onto one page). Plus, it's not too likely that you'll be referring back to the rules too often anyways.

You heard me right. These rules are nice and simple. They are as elegant as any historical rules I've read (and much more so than any fantasy mini rules. (Warhammer, eat your heart out.)

There are a lot of really great things about these rules. I'll just list a few of the best things here:

  • 1-2 hour playing time for fairly large armies
  • Use whatever minis you want. The bases are 60mm x 60mm in the 25mm scale, which means your WHFB minis will remount easily (or you can tape a piece of paper to their bottom.)
  • The rules work with both 15mm and 25mm, and I shouldn't think 6mm would be too hard either.
  • You get 48(!) army lists with the two rule sets. To list a few of the more amusing ones: Aboriginal, Weres, Greek, Arabic, Egyptian, Hitite, Inquisition, 5 varieties of Native American armies, and what seems to be a Cthulhu cult army. Most Warhammer armies are easily converted over.
  • Heroes have a lot less effect on the game than in Rankslammer, er, I mean Warhammer. In FR!, heroes encourage the men on to be more effective fighters, and help to slay ethereals that men with normal weapons have trouble affecting. Heroes can be assassinated, and can get bodyguards, among other things.
  • Underwater, aerial, and burrowing rules. Even sea bottom fights. All still very simple to learn.
  • Get this, the point system they set forth for designing new troops pretty much works on their own troops! Gasp! In the places where it doesn't quite fit, you can just use the irregularities to determine how they've priced special abilities.
  • The magic item list is short and sweet. I can find no obviously gamebreaking items.
  • Their tournament-suggested rules are short and to the point. Given the short playing time of FR! it would seem to be a better tournament game than WHFB.
  • Have I mentioned that the rules are really simple? Well they are.
  • The magic system is great. The players bid points to reinforce or dispel spells, similar to what goes on in WHFB. However, spells can be cast at any time. You have a mana pool that limits the number of spells you can cast/dispel, and the spells themselves are not so powerful as to destroy the game.
  • Chipco really goes out of their way to support their players. When a couple folks on the internet complained that some of their miniatures were too big for one base, Chipco came up with Juggernaut rules that allow multi-base models and posted them to the net, for free.
  • Also in the works are a campaign system, a Do-It-Yourself spell system, and pre-battle rules that handle things like omens, portents, and stealing magic items.

Now, for those of you who remember me asking for an alternate fantasy game to WHFB, here's how FR! holds up to my demands:

1. Solid tactical base even without fantasy elements.
Check. FR! reads like one of the better historical wargames.
2. Fantastic elements do not overwhelm the tactical base, merely add to it.
Check. Spells, magic items, and heroes cannot win the game for you. An army of orcs with no spellcasters at all still has a decent chance against an elven army with a wizard or two simply because you truly pay for your spellcasting ability: 80 points, which is equal to 2-3 good normal units, which is about how much stuff a wizard can kill in one game before getting killed himself.
3. Not particularly pedantic about stuff like base sizes and the minis you use.
CHECK! This seems to be one of the central goals of FR! Even the 15mm army boxes they are putting out aren't really a GW sort of thing. The minis are chosen from various mini companies and repackaged into a boxed set deal for convenience more than anything else, or so I hear. The base size is set, but it's larger than any other fantasy game I've seen, so you can easily tape pieces of paper as stand-in bases.
4. Allows creation of your own troops and army lists. I want nice, solid formulaic point cost calculations. If I leave out all the fancy special powers from my army, I want to still be able to win by overwhelming numbers because I'm saving all those pts.
Check. As I said, point costs make sense, and you get what you pay for.
5. Allows creation of a good variety of fantasy creatures including various elementals, demons, dragons, dopplegangers, etc.
CHECK. Demons, Cthulian beasts, dragons, krakens, mammoth war zeppelins, Conan the Barbarian, dopplegangers, the Blob, and all sorts of stuff can be created with a little bit of imagination.
6. Good variety of spells and magic equipment. Clear and concise descriptions of what the items and spells can, and more importantly, definitely can't do.
Check, but not in the way I expected. The magic items and spells are generic enough that you can make them do their thing with whatever specifics you can dream up.
7. Fewer than 10 dice rolled in a single round of combat. I find that if I can't hold all the dice I will be rolling in a single round in one hand at the same time, the game is going to take too damn long.
Check. In FR!, you roll 1D10 vs your opponent's 1D10. Gravy!
8. Campaign rules. Allows for advancement of troops, acquiring of new items, units, and spells. Keeps very large armies from destroying small armies by more realistic means such as speed of movement, difficulties supplying food for a big army, etc.
On the way, or so I hear. Dunno about supply lines, but I wouldn't be surprised to see some sort of simple rules for it.
9. Tournament standards established. Removes items of possible contention from the game for tournament play. Gives reasons for doing so.
Check. Tournament rules run like: 1,000 pt army, with a 250 pt 'sideboard' that you can swap in/out before each battle. No more than 1 wizard per 500 points, stuff like that. There are only about 5-6 rules, so it's not too hard to remember. The rules are pretty much common sense things.
10. Precise in its language. Rules very clear and strict. While I like my games flexible, there is a difference between flexible and loosely written.
CHECK. Happily, FR! is tightly written, and the expansion clears up the questions I had after reading the basic rules. The terms they use are very clearly defined. They don't waffle between words like in WHFB (HEY, is it per 'Battle' or per 'Game'?! How many times can I use this bloody thing!)

Okay now, not everything is all milk and honey. There are a few problems with FR! that need to be discussed before I can just recommend it to everyone.

Problem 1: This is a generic wargame. You have to design your own 'fluff' to go with the rules. For some people this is a godsend (I certainly prefer not to pay money to get stuck with a single setting), others may find this irritating, particularly if they don't wish to be bothered coming up with scenarios and so forth. If you have a good imagination, I don't see that FR! will get boring too soon. I'm already looking into recreating the battle of five armies from Tolkien.

Problem 2 (Solved): There were a few editing problems here and there in the rules. Once Chipco heard about them, they assured me that they would be fixed in the next printing. Ya gotta love small companies.

Problem 3: The no-frills aspect of the rules. Unbound pages, even printed on nice thick paper, as they are, will be trouble sooner or later. I'm going to go ahead and have mine laminated, hole-punched, and put in a hardcover binder. Fortunately I can have all that done for under $10.00, so the full rules are still cheaper than the magic expansion for WHFB.

These are not, as you can see, major problems, except the first might put off some people (to which I say, tough nuggets. It's simpler to start with a generic system and build backgrounds for armies than it is to strip established background out of a game in order to use the rules for another setting.)

So, my final analysis:

Basically, Fantasy Rules! is a superior game to Warhammer in almost every way I can think of. It plays faster, uses less dice, allows more army variety, maintains game balance throughout the troops (although some of the really big monsters need to be spanked pretty hard to die), and lets you use whatever miniatures you want without getting snotty and anal.

It still needs a bit of editing for future printings, but largely the quality of the rules is excellent. Don't expect to see full color artwork in the rules, but then, don't expect to pay US$70-80 for the rules either.

The lack of pre-defined fluff may be a turn-off for some, but I find the generic nature of the game very exciting. It means I can play Barsoom, H.P Lovecraftian tales, Robert E. Howard's Conan or Solomon Kane adventures, or even easily adapt a scenario to tie into my AD&D 2nd edition campaign. (FR! is a lot simpler than Battlesystem.)

Essentially, my final analysis is that you're really missing out on an exciting game if you stick your head in the sand (US$19.95/lb. designer sand, available from GW) and ignore Chipco's Fantasy Rules! My Bretonnians will soon be marshalled as an FR! Medieval army. (And with 1-3 figures representing a unit of knights, I should have no problem fielding a more realistically sized army.)

And before anyone asks, no I don't work for Chipco, and in fact first heard of their game on, bought it, and the rest you just read about.

John Hills (

I have got their fantasy rules and they are great. They use a system similar to HOTT, but more refined. Magic is well handled, exciting but not decisive - you still need to get stuck in with the rank and file troops. The key to the system is the Morale Clock which determines how many units you can move each turn, as with HOTT PIPS, but these are not diced for - you have a set number each turn and the number goes down if you lose more troops in a turn than your opponent, until your clock reaches Zero and the game is over.

Jason Mirosavich (

In all the games I've played, basic tactics are very important. Movement is similar to DB*, with linear formations important. The monsters, flying troops, etc. all need to be used with an eye towards historical methods of warfare. Everyone I know gave up Warhammer several editions ago because of the often ridiculous, overwhelming nature of the 'fantasy' element. Magic in FR! does make a difference, but doesn't decide who wins. Anyone who has played DB* should find most of the rules very familiar.

As a bonus, the rules are clearly written and easy to understand. Also, the writers are available by e-mail and willing to answer questions. They welcome input and a growing FR! discussion group has formed. I think that FR! blows HOTT out of the water.

Mark Havener (

At a recent gaming convention I was introduced to a new miniatures game called Fantasy Rules! (yes, the exclamation point is part of the title).

It's a new tabletop fantasy miniatures game that a small company (Chipco Games) has recently produced. Since I knew the game designers, they offered to give me a copy of their rules if I would try out the game and post a review. I readily agreed, as the game had already been described to me by a friend who had tried it, and it sounded good. The designers were running demo games at the Con, whihc made it that much easier to try it out.

In my first game, I took over control of half of a Dark Elf army; we faced a dreaded Araby army. Our crossbowmen and light cavalry facing off against his spearmen and much more numerous cavalry (both heavy and light). Through some particularly lucky dice-rolling, our opponent managed to beat us, but the game was still fun. In addition to our normal rank and file troopers, each side had characters (heroes, generals, magic-users, and assassins), as well as other "more fantastical" elements--monsters and spirits.

Combat in FR! is quick and easy. The combat values of each side are added up (including any bonuses for being elites, characters in the unit, or other nearby "supporting" units), and each side rolls a d10 and the results are compared. If one side doubles the total of the other, the lower-rolling unit is destroyed. If one side gets a higher total than the other, but the result is less than double that of the lesser, then the losing unit is "demoralized". A demoralized unit gets "double demoralized" if it loses a second combat in this way, and a double demoralized unit is destroyed if it loses a further combat. There are also other ways in the game to further demoralize units, as well as ways to rally ("un-demoralize") them.

Heroes/Generals seem to be somewhat important, though not nearly so important as in other hero-heavy games (i.e. "HeroHammer"). In FR!, these characters add bonuses to the unit they are attached to, and also allow the unit to fight Ethereals (which cannot be hit by magic weapons--it is assumed that all characters carry a magic weapon and that they step forward to fight the beasties). Magic-users seem to be far more important, as they cast spells that can make or break the battle for you.

There are four types of Magic Users (Clerics, Wizards, Shamen, and Necromancers), and each has a different "spellbook" or selection of spells that he can use during the battle. All Magic Users get all the spells in his particular spellbook, and may cast any spell in his spellbook at any time during the battle. Spells are powered by points from the player's Magic Pool. Each player gets 10 points in his magic pool, plus a d10 for each Magic User in his army, rolled at the start of the turn. These points are used during the turn to cast AND PREVENT YOUR OPPONENT FROM CASTING spells. Spells may be cast during either your phase (half of the turn--when you do all your troop movement, rally your troops, etc), or your opponents...there is no "Magic Phase" in FR!.

Spell-casting approaches a kind of "gambling" atmosphere, as you make decisions on exactly how many points is it worth to invest to try and keep your opponent from casting his spells, or to try and get your spells off.

Monsters, spirits, blobs, swarms, etc. are all "troops" that liven up your army. They are frequently very powerful, but have their own weaknesses as well. For example, spirits do not get demoralized--they are destroyed if they lose a combat. Also, most of these beasts do not support your other units, making their role in your army more specialized and individual.

The main point of the game seems to center around "The Morale Clock". The clock starts at 9 for each player. At the end of each phase, a combat winner is determined by whose units did better in combat in that phase. The loser moves his Morale Clock down by one. This represents the morale of your army. As their morale worsens, your troops get harder to control. It is also a time-keeper, as when one player's clock gets down to zero, the game is over. At this point victory points are counted up and a winer determined (the loser is not necessarily the guy with the morale clock of 0).

After playing the game, we talked to one of the game designers and suggested a few ideas, which he seemed generally open to. This open attitude can be seen in the rules themselves, where for example, the designers give tips on scratch-building miniatures for the game.

Chipco is not a miniatures company, so they do not care whose miniatures you use for their games. In fact, they suggest that you go to flea markets to purchase miniatures cheaply, and find inventive new ways to use the miniatures you find. I found this attitude refreshing. Many of the troop types are generic enough that they could be many different things. For example, in addition to the pictures that "Swarms", "Monsters" or "Artillery" may conjure up in our minds, in the rules for the Halfling Army are the following ideas:

"Halflings are expert at getting their food to fight for them, and often employ rabbits, chickens, or hamsters as swarms; herds of cattle, sheep, or pigs as small monsters; pots of boiling water or stew as light artillery." (FR! Rulebook, p. 18)

In the rulebook are included army lists for many different "races", including the fantasy equivalents of many different historical armies (Medieval, Roman, Steppe, Samurai, Greek, etc), as well as several "straight fantasy" armies (Undead, Orc/Goblin, Weres, Dwarf, Druid, Elf, etc). In all, there are 24 army lists that are included in the FR! rules. Each army list has a section where suggestions are made as to what would be appropriate troops in defferent categories (such as spirits or monsters).

Other things I liked:

  • The rules were quick and easy, and games were over in an hour or two.
  • Though some aspects of the rules are "generic" enough to allow you flexibility when building your army, they are not without flavor, as opposed to (IMHO) Hordes of the Things.
  • The game is meant to be able to simulate larger-scale conflicts than skirmish games like Warhammer Fantasy Battles. FR! definitely has more of the feel of a "Strategy Game".
  • Magic is playable "any time", not just during some arbitrary "Magic Phase".
  • Many different and interesting army possibilities. My favorite was the Druid army that was used in the demo games. It had fairy dragons and snail riders. Great stuff!
  • Armies are designed with a points system, to ensure balance.
  • The rules appear well playtested.
  • NO HEROHAMMER! Heroes and even wizards are just not as important as individuals as they are in certain other games of the genre.

Things I did not like:

  • The physical layout of the rulebook is annoying. It is not bound in any way, and is instead is sold inside one of those plastic magazine sleeves. This is obviously a problem because of the small size of the company and the small budget that the designers had to work with, and I would expect this to be changed if the game takes off. OTOH, the "cover" DOES contain a picture by NeNe Thomas (a professional artist).
  • Magic is powerful, and may be too powerful. I was told that armies with fewer Magic Users than their opponents "usually" beat them (for the price of a Magic User, you can purchase a Dragon instead, and Dragons are much better in HTH). In the game I played however, losing one of our mages sealed the coffin lid on our army. Getting fewer magic points to play with each turn means that your opponent can usually get off one nasty spell unopposed each turn (since magic points are the only way you have to dispel enemy magic), and if your opponent is lucky with the die rolls (as ours was), he'll get more. I'm not sure whether building a wizardless army in this system is feasible (though I have had limited exposure so far, so it may well be), but losing one of your wizards is A Bad Thing(TM). At least the spells in FR! appear balanced, and are not as devastating as their Warhammer equivalents.
  • Because of the fluid nature of the magic system, whoever starts casting a spell first gets to try to cast his spell. Spell casting does not follow a strict order. This is normally fine, unless both players want to cast a spell at once, at which time the spell-casting seems to degenerate into a game of Slap! I would like to see some way of resolving this built into the rules (I'd suggest a simple die-roll if both players declare spell-casting at once).

Overall, I was pleased with the game. It has flexibility, both in building the army and in playing the game, and it also has great playability. It looks to be a great game to try and re-create a large-scale battle (a la the "Battle of the Five Armies"), or if you want to be able to play multiple game in an afternoon. As soon as I got home from the Convention, I looked at my bins of extra lead to see what armies I had a reasonable start on. Currently I am planning on a Druid army, a Samurai army, an Unholy army...

Ed Allen (
Note: This review is of the basic rules without the expansion that was released later. The publisher tells me the expansion deals with some of my concerns; others are integral parts of the game system where we just differ in our tastes. - Ed Allen

The combat system is basically DB style, except using D10s. Overlaps, flanks and rear attackers are handled somewhat differently. Rear +2, cavalry and many monsters being like DBM elephants and not able to provide an overlap. Overlaps count even if facing an opponent. Instead of recoils, you have demoralization that gives a minus and makes you unable to advance to contact, double demoralization as a next step on another loss, which includes a recoil and a further minus on the morale recovery roll, and the third step kills. Most doublings kill as in DB*.

Missile fire is not handled in the same way as melee, but instead has two separate missile systems, one for bows and another for artillery. A bit inelegant and with a problem in that with a few exceptions like heavy artillery being unable to target flyers, all targets are equal to missile fire, so you always concentrate it on the most powerful foe available in the target arc. Heavy artillery have truly fantastic flexibility in being able to fire indirectly at any target on the table.

A bit higher movement rates than in DB*.

PIP rolls are replaced by the ChipCo morale clock, also used in their Napoleonic titles. Basically the guy who loses each bound (with elements killed that bound counting as two points and elements demoralized in it counting 1) goes a step down on a chart, starting at 9, with the current step being the number of PIPs, and when you are down to 4 a fraction of your army is auto-demoralized. When it hits 0, you lose. I like PIP rolls better, there is much less command tension on where to use PIPs in ChipCo, and by the time you are limited, at least in smaller games, there wasn't much left to move anyway.

There are some real oddities in the movement rules where a group gets free wrap around the flank and rear of the enemy including extra distance, but a single element is more restricted in movment than in DB*, including losing half its move to turn if it needs to go sideways more than 45 degrees, unless it is a LH or flyer or some other specially mobile types, in which case it moves pretty much freely in any direction.

The magic system is more complex and has more flavor than HOTT's, though the same can be said of oatmeal. Four or so classes of spellcaster, half a dozen spells available to each class, spells cost points (which are refreshed after each pair of bounds to the tune of 10 + 1D10 per spellcaster in your army) and require an opposed die roll to cast successfully if the opponent spends one or more spell points to block, with DRMs based on the number of points invested by the caster and target and the difficulty of the spell, and sometimes extra pumping for extra damage effect or to increase the number of affected elements. It succeeds pretty well at what it is trying to do, though it seemed pretty prone to stereotyping of spell choice and the tactics of point allocation and interaction.

There are lots of monsters with lots of various special rules and attributes and army lists for several types of armies, each having some particular bonus. Flyers cost extra points and are much more flexible than the ones in HOTT, being able to go great distances and hit the rear.

Generals, heroes, spellcasters, and a couple of other types are individuals mounted on small stands, and attach to elements to give them morale and combat bonuses and the individuals protection from being picked off by any roving enemy fast or flying troops. They take a leader casualty check if the element dies and can be killed, wounded, captured, or escape. They can roll to escape later if captured.

Flyers and magic work out to be more important than in HOTT.

All in all, it seemed to work pretty much as the authors intended, but didn't completely suit me. I would give it 3.5 out of 5 stars. It is a viable alternative to HOTT, and a more complete system, particularly in the magic.

Mike Demana (

If you are interested in a DBA-like set of fantasy miniatures rules, I think the best is Chipco's "Fantasy Rules!" They are much, much better than HOTT, being full of interesting troop and monster types, wizards, spells, creative army special abilities, etc.

The guy who wrote them (Curtis Wright) is a DBA-er who wanted to be able to convert all his historicals into armies he could use for fantasy battles, of course. So, there are army lists (and monster/fantasy element suggestions) for Egyptians, Arabs, Medievals, Romans, Greeks, Steppe armies, you name it! For example, I added a winged sphinx, some crocodiles, hippos and a magician to my New Kingdom Egyptian army and voila! A Chipco Egyptian army.

The rules are heavily based on DBA. Each element has a combat factor (same vs. all troop types), which is added to the roll of a ten-sided die for melee. The factors range from 1 for "Irregulars" (i.e. Hordes), to 10 for "Spirits" (summoned gods, etc.). An element that loses a combat receives a demoralization marker, which it can attempt to rally off of itself at the beginning of its own phase. Another loss brings a second marker and recoil. Elements die if doubled.

Missile fire is a roll of 1d10. Results can be a demoralization marker on the target, destroy it, or a miss. Light horse and chariots are permitted range fire. Units of bow can choose to be "co-located" with another foot unit, firing from the front rank and giving them a +1 in combat. They die if the other foot element does, too.

The best part of the rules is its wealth of troop types. There are spirits, dragons, "large" monsters, small monsters, swarms, blobs, cyclicals, traps, as well as the normal DBA types of knights, cavalry, lt. horse, spears, pikes, hand weapons, crossbow, bow, etc.!

Another great facet is the magic system. There are four types of wizards with their own corresponding spell list (6 each): clerics/anti-clerics, wizards, shamans and necromancers. Players roll 2d10 for magic points. These are spent on spells or "resisting" the other player's spells. So, for example, if a necromancer doesn't want the other guy's cleric to Banish his unit of summoned skeletons, he may spend points to resist it. A "bidding war" ensues with each allowed to chip in magic points till both are done doing so.

Finally, for pips and ending the game, Chipco uses their "Morale Clock" system. Each side starts at 10. The clock's current level determines the number of pips a side receives to move elements or groups. At the end of each bound, the side that suffered the most losses, drops one on the clock.

We've found that magic and a really tough monster may be able to score you a few local successes here and there, but a good battle plan is necessary. If you are pretty much beating your opponent's battleline, having matched up your "scissors" against his "paper," you should win. We haven't played a game yet where someone outmanuevered his opponent, did an excellent job as a general, and lost.

These rules are fast, simple, but full of the extra spice of fantasy. I heartily recommend them! I played 3 games this summer and loved it. I highly recommend the game for any who feel (like I do) that H.O.T.T. is a little stale. This game is very rich, yet for all its spice has a solid foundation in a DBA-like set of miniature battles rules.

Fantasizing about painting new armies...

Ethan R. Zorick (

I think this is a pretty worthy effort, that could be much improved with a few minor changes.

I think that missile fire is one of the things that is a little buggy. Arrows have the same effect on irregulars as they do on dragons. What is needed is a bit of rules borrowed from Armati, a missile defence factor. Imagine these range from 0 (irregulars) to +3 or +4 (dragons). With the standard being +2. Then redo the missile fire table to generate the current results against a missile defense of +2 better/worse results for other defenses.

I also think that x-bow should/can be thought of as heavily armed/armored missile troops willing to fight hth (immortals, retinue longbowment, etc.). The bow troops is like DBM Ps/Bw(I/O).

The magic system is really the best part of the game.

Another thing I would change would be the morale clock. I like a bit of randomness, ala DB*. So go with morale clock/2 + D6. When you go below a morale of 4 use Clock/2 + D3.

Last Updates
4 September 1999redesigned
3 May 1997page first published
Comments or corrections?