Knight Hack

Brief Description

These rules are intended as a user-friendly, fast-playing, yet historical set of medieval rules. Armies are purchased using a point system, paying for units (battles) based on number of figures, armor type, and morale. Armor type also determines which basing the unit is eligible for (open, loose, close).

Morale reflects both unit spirit and training, and determines melee strength (in combination with armor type) and the unit's ability to make evolutions (changes in movement and formation), as well as whether a unit becomes disordered due to combat or circumstances. Weapon type determines how many ranks can engage in combat.

Commanders are also purchased with points, and modify their unit's fighting strength and morale. The death or retirement of a leader causes his subordinate units to retire as well.

No army lists are provided, as the designers feel that there is insufficient historical evidence to base them on. Set-up rules allow each player to nominate eight items of terrain, then dice to see if each item is allowed, and if so, which part of the field it occupies. Two scenarios are provided: Hastings (1066) and First Lincoln (1141).

Period 1000 A.D. to 1230 A.D.
Scale Figure scale can vary, representing between 5-100 combatants per figure. Ground scale is 1" = 100 feet. "Time is not specifically taken into account as it is built into the overall system." Designed for use with 25mm and 15mm figures.
Type # of figures Width*
25mm scale 15mm scale
Open 2 60mm 40mm
Loose 3
Close 4
* Depth is set solely by the physical requirements of the figures
  • 28-page rulebook
  • two reference sheets
  • one blank army list sheet
  • one errata sheet
Designers Philip J. Viverito, Ed Backer, Richard Kohlbacher
Publisher Second edition published 1995 by L.M.W. Works.

What You Think

John Retzer ( Philip J. Viverito (lynne99@IDT.NET) responds:
I recently purchased a copy of your 2nd Edition Knight Hack rules. I'd heard good things about them, and have been looking for a playable set of medieval rules for some time (being dissatisfied with WRG and DBA/M).

I would like to take this opportunity to address a number of things Mr. Retzer has written about Knight Hack. Knight Hack is first and foremost a grass roots set of rules. Rules that are intended to be cut to fit players' ideas and ideals on Medieval Warfare from 1000 A.D. to 1230 A.D. It is also designed not to be played as a tournament set of rules. The Introduction clearly states a basic philosophy and exactly how the rules are to be used by the purchaser. "The rules cannot be tailored by us to fit everyone. They are designed to be tailored and changed to fit the gamers' beliefs and interpretations, so feel free to alter them as you the user see fit." The rules do not claim to be perfect but then few rules are. Are what? Why perfect. So let me begin to answer Mr. Retzer's points.

I agree completely with his comment that "he had heard good things about them." I have heard the same thing said. First in a Spear Point review by Scott Holder, shortly after the first edition came out. People who play them say they are good. Perhaps those who play Knight Hack take them as they were intended; simple and not terribly involved. Certainly no one should take them as a tournament set to be played with calibrated measuring devices.

Unfortunately, I may never get around to playing your game. Despite the professional presentation (as far as the "look" goes), Knight Hack is an amateurish production. Entire sections are missing (examples are at the end of this letter). Typos, missing words, and awkward sentence structure make rules incomprehensible. Poor spelling and grammar, and mangled syntax make the rules painful to read. Whatever the merits of your ideas, I cannot shake the idea that if you truly thought they were worth playing, you would have taken the time to do a good job.

While I do not know whether Mr. Retzer ever did get around to playing Knight Hack, I do thank him for the comments about "professional presentation." We must both have the same appreciation for layout and design. The Bayeux Tapestry, while amateurish by comparison to many forms of modern art, is still appealing in its simplicity and "amateurish production." Line drawings taken from the Bayeux Tapestry are used as illustrations in Knight Hack.

Because Knight Hack is intended to be developed further by the purchaser, we feel that the ideas and ideals should remain vague. Indeed, many sentences retain more of a note book style than a definitive, carefully structured, unbending, even rigid if you will, style. While no one will receive a national tournament standing by playing Knight Hack, they will have fun. Mr. Lembit Tohver of Hamilton, Ontario, expressed the comment that "the rules are so easy to read and are clearer than most tournament style rules. They are quite understandable."

Having demonstrated the rules many times at all the major and many of the minor conventions on the eastern seaboard from Toronto to Augusta, seldom do players require great assistance after turn three. I just verbalize examples of movement, morale, missile fire, and melee in relation to the sequence of play. Armed with dice, rules, and a cheat sheet, most players (not all) are off and running in short order. These demo games host up to sixteen players each and finish in three hours. Heck, the players seem satisfied. Go figure.

It is clear that the "Jogglers" have high aspirations. Your production values are high; the layout, artwork, and typefaces are good; a 4-color cover is not cheap. Why then, did you not take the time to carefully edit your work? Or, if you are not competent to do this job, why did you not hire someone who was? (I noticed that you credited Paul Forgette as the editor - what, exactly, did he do? If you paid him, you were ripped off.)

We have always tried to reach our aspirations, however imperfectly. Unfortunately, we did not pay Mr. Forgette. You may not believe this, but we did not write the rules to make money. Ok, so we are ready to go into third edition. Perhaps Mr. Forgette's efforts were not fully utilized, because by error the printer used an incorrect disk. It should be noted that the rules do come with an errata sheet intended to repair much of the the damage caused by this error. Because we do not shrink wrap all sets sold, it is possible that Mr. Retzer did not get an errata sheet with his set. For this we apologize to Mr. Forgette, for our undoing his good work, and therefore causing Mr. Retzer such agitation at his being ripped off.

I am sorry if this seems unduly harsh. I really do mean it as constructive criticism. I have worked for years as a professional editor and ghost writer, and know how hard it is to write well. A good writer or editor agonizes over every sentence and paragraph. This is because a writer's job is to clearly communicate ideas to the readers. A simple misplaced comma can completely change the meaning of a sentence (I remember once seeing an errata sheet for DBA - or was it DBM? - where one of the changes was the addition of a simple comma; it completely changed the meaning of the rule). At the very least, a good writer or editor makes sure that his work isn't missing any critical sections.

Knight Hack was test played many times, by both experienced gamers and players who had never wargamed with miniatures. Remember, Knight Hack is designed with the player in mind. The player is encouraged to move, delete or even include commas anywhere he wishes to make the game his own. No one publishes annual interpretations for Knight Hack.

Good editors are not cheap, but they can make the difference between an ok work, and a very good one. Most, however, will adjust their fees based on ability to pay. Heck, I'd have done it for credit and a few courtesy copies, simply because I love the hobby.

My advice: Find someone competent to go over your work before you invest in producing any more rules sets. After reading through your rules and trying to figure out what you're saying, I think that you may have something there; it deserves a good editor.

Perhaps this point is the most important one in my response to John. May I call you John? Let us both be on a first name basis from now on. The thing that I enjoy about the Knight Hack philosophy is its spirit. That is: take it, change it, make it feel right for you. Enjoy the game because that's what it is really about. A true mutual exchange of ideas with the authors and the players. This exchange is the essence of all wargaming with miniatures. Regardless of peoples' backgrounds, race or social position, wargaming is inclusive and not exclusive. I think to exemplify this concept and our honesty in this philosophy of gaming, we are prepared to take you up on your generous offer - "Heck, I'd have done it for credit and a few courtesy copies, simply because I love the hobby."

We hope to begin work sometime late next year on third edition Knight Hack. Here's your chance to give us your help. But know this, so there is no misunderstanding. First, Mr. Forgette will be editor-in-chief, because he has played the game and also knows our intended interpretations. Second, we want the rules to be clarified and expanded and not rewritten. They must remain historically correct while remaining fast, fun and still understandable. We have accepted your challenge - will you accept ours and help us in this endeavor?

Here are just a few examples that I picked at random. Muddled writing and missing rules occur on nearly every page. I don't have the time to list them all.

Missing Rules:

1. Is this game a simultaneous movement game, or Igo-Ugo? Does each side complete section A before going on to B, or does a side complete A, B and C in turn before allowing the other side to go? Your rules don't say. This is an unforgivable oversight.

This is covered in the errata sheet. No more unforgivable than Igo-Ugo. But that is clever. We can use clever.

2. There is no rule for computing Basic Morale Level (before adding or subtracting modifiers) nor are there any rules describing how to check Morale. To figure out how to do this, you have to read the example on p. 16, and draw your own conclusions.

You understand that correctly. But again go to the errata sheet. If you did not get one, please let me know.

This is pure laziness. Examples are just that: examples. They should illustrate the use of a rule, not substitute for them.

At the time you wrote this you probably did not understand our intention, but please again refer to the errata sheet.

Foggy writing also creates confusion in this section:

In the section on disorder, it states: "Disorder due to any other cause lasts until the next rally move phase in which the unit is able to rally." Does this mean that they automatically rally in the phase, or that they must test for morale in the rally phase? Further, the sentence implies that there are some rally move phases in which the unit is not able to rally. Since I don't know how the turn sequence works, there's no way to figure this out (and I shouldn't have to: the rules should state such things explicitly).

See the errata sheet. Put more effort into your own judgment and you will understand the sequence.

A check of the rules under "Rally Moves" reveals more incoherency. You state: "Units which broke off, successfully evaded a charge or successfully tested to cease pursuit, charge or rout will in the rally phase." Will what? Will "check"? Will "automatically rally"? The missing word makes this rule incomprehensible.

Nor are these the only examples of missing and incomprehensible rules. Taken as a whole, the rules are unplayable.

Demonstration game experiences, Knight Hack players' comments received from Gainesville, on line e-mail, and going into third edition might prove you incorrect in this assumption. Our parents instructed us by example. "It's that simple."

I can see what happened here: These rules were written and edited and tested by people who already knew how to play. So, they didn't notice the inconsistencies and missing rules. I doubt you ever sent test sets to people who had not played a "hack" game before.

I addressed test play earlier. The MIGS Club might also disagree with you.

Inconsistent terminology:

In several sections, you refer to percentile dice. In others, you refer to probability dice. Which is it? Is one different from the other?

Both are interchangeable terms.

Goofy spelling and grammar errors:

Page 1, paragraph 1, sentence 3:
"Rules that capture the flavor of warfare in each of these specific yet different periods." This is a sentence fragment. It means nothing. Better: "These rules are designed to capture the flavor of warfare in each of these specific, yet different periods."
Page 6, paragraph 1, sentence 4:
"Mixed units cannot not separated . . . " More nonsense.
Page 11, Paragraph 3, line 2:
"Figures in melee may not" This is another sentence fragment. The question: Figures in melee may not what? Further, it should be "figures in a melee."
And finally, the funniest one:
Page 12, Paragraph 1, sentence 5:
"If the object evades and another unit can be contracted . . . " Contracted? The word you want is contacted (no "r"). You use this word incorrectly throughout the booklet, with (I am sure) unintentionally hilarious results. The use of "contracted" brings up two very funny images: 1) A line of Saxon infantry suddenly shrinking to 3 inches tall and being stomped to death by a herd of pigs. 2) A warband of lawyers swarming onto the field, waving papers for their opponents to sign.

See errata sheet. At one convention a lawyer friend offered to put on a scenario game based on MacBeth. I think he will find this funny.

I hope you clean up your act. The hobby needs a good set of ancients and medieval rules. It also needs entrepreneurial individuals like yourselves who can introduce new ideas. At the same time, however, the consumer deserves more for his money. Had I read these rules before buying them, I wouldn't have paid 20 cents.

You are correct about what the hobby needs. But remember we are discussing only Medieval rules here. Thanks for the comments about our introducing new ideas. We hope you will find time to help us improve our product. Few other publishers in our hobby offer such an opportunity for input.

If you would like to add your opinion to this webpage, use the following form or send email to the editor.

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Online Resources

Publisher's Official Errata and Clarifications
We've received permission to reprint the publisher's official update sheet for the game.
Questions and Answers
We take your rules questions to the publisher, and come back with official answers.

If you know of any other resources for this game, or if you have material you would like to make available to the Net, please let us know.

Last Updates
24 May 1997designer responds to John Retzer's comments
23 May 1997added clarification links
20 May 1997comments by John Retzer
14 May 1997page first published
Comments or corrections?