Monday, July 29, 2013

Stout Hearts and Willing Swords (Updated)

(Draft edited 31 July 2013)
A simple wargame by Ross Macfarlane

Stout Hearts  Part 1. Set up and basics.

This is the second draft of a set of simple rules for resolving movement and combat in tabletop miniature wargames inspired by heroic fiction whether historical or fantastical in origin. The main changes are to revert to the old Featherstone idea of armour saves which has led to a number of other changes to facilitate this and keep melee and missile fire consistent but there are others such as to make shieldwalls explicit again instead of implicit.

lease note that this is not a complete gaming system. A game masters/organizer is required to choose or design a scenario and add house or scenario rules where needed, preferably in accordance with a background storyline, of their own choosing or design. To get the most from the game, players will need to be equipped with a strong imagination of their own.


The game requires at least 1 person in which case that person will be GM and solo-player rolled into one. If 2 or more persons are available the game may be played as a conventional game with one or more players on each side playing against each other or as players with personal goals playing against a GM controlled enemy. There is no theoretical limit to the number of players.

The rules assume that figures will be singly based but with the help of some markers and imagination troops on multi-figure stands may be used.

All dice are traditional 6 sided dice.

Heroes: Heroes are individual figures who are above the crowd. A hero may start as part of a unit whether as the unit commander or as an ordinary ranker, be a general or be on their own. They may even be an animal or non-human. Each player must pick one and only one Hero who represents himself and who will always attempt to move as the player wishes.  All heroes who are not a player’s personal figure are non-player heroes and must test as per the orders rule when the player goes to move them. Heroes must be given a name and  assigned a Power of 1 (Minor Hero), 2 (Hero) or 3  (Great Hero). When a hero takes a hit his power is reduced by 1. If reduced to Power 0, the next hit will kill or incapacitate him. Player heroes and all Great heroes do not normally die but will instead collapse from blood loss and be captured or buried under a pile of bodies to later escape or be rescued. A GM may of course overrule this but beware, if the main hero dies, the story usually ends and you may need to start a new series.

Last but not least, having too many heroes in a single game will probably spoil the broth.
Generals. A General is a hero who commands an army or in a large game, a portion of an army that is assigned to him. In the case of an alliance, one general may be in supreme command or both the armies might only recognize their own general. It is usual for one of the player’s to have their personal figure as the General but it is not necessary. If the General is not a player-character, units must test as per the Orders rule. If a General is killed he is not replaced during the game or rather whoever takes over does not have the same authority, units must test as per the orders rule.

Units. A unit is a group of figures that must normally stay together. A unit might or might not contain a hero and might be a non-military group such as a group of villagers or be a single large creature with or without a crew. There is no minimum or maximum unit size but around a dozen heavy infantry or ½ that number of cavalry or light troops works well. A unit may be ordered to split off a detachment for a particular purpose, such as to guard a bridge and this then becomes a separate unit. Units are classed primarily by function. Non heroes are killed if they take a hit.

Units may be classed as:

Heavy Infantry trained and equipped primarily to fight hand to hand in tight ranks although some units may also use some missile weapons. They are normally assumed to be armed with some combination of spears, swords and axes but heavy infantry with two handed pikes have special rules.

Light Infantry trained and equipped to operate in looser formations for rapid movement in all sorts of terrain and normally relying primarily on shooting with bows, slings and javelins but usually armed to fight hand to hand as well. Light Infantry may only carry light armour at most plus a shield.

Heavy Cavalry trained and equipped to fight on horseback and rely on shock charges although some are also equipped with missile weapons.

Light Cavalry trained and equipped to operate on horse back using rapid movement and missile fire to harass and weaken the enemy but also normally equipped for hand to hand combat as well. Light cavalry may only be equipped with armour plus a shield.

Artillery trained and equipped to use catapults and other engines of war to attack the enemy at a distance.

Train equipped with wagons and beasts of burdens to transport goods and only capable of limited self defence.

Elephants trained for war and usually carrying a crew as well. Treat the elephant and crew as a single hero figure with a power of 3 in melee. When shooting count the crew as foot archers.

Civilians neither trained nor equipped for fighting.

Special and custom units. Due to the breadth of imagination in heroic fiction not to mention history, the GM may have to slot units as best as possible, camel riders as cavalry, goblins  as light infantry and so and should feel free to customize their characteristics to taste.

Armour. The rules assume that most troops are "armed" that is they have some basic protection, a shield and possibly a jerkin or stout cap. Those who lack any substantial protection, a peasant or  unarmoured archer perhaps, should be classed as unarmed. Troops who are more heavily armoured than usual, having mail plus helmet and a large shield or a full suit of armour or riding armoured horses should be classed as Heavy Armed. Light infantry and light cavalry may not be heavy armed. Heavy cavalry only counts as heavy armed if their horses are protected but may still be able to count as heavy armed when they dismount. Armour is classed as follows:
Light Armour: A helmet and/or minimal body protection such as a fur.
Armour: A helmet and metal or proper fabric or leather protection for the torso.
Heavy Armour: A helmet and mostly metal armour for torso, arms and legs. For cavalry this must include some horse armout while mounted.
Shield: Any substantial shield. A pavise or similar counts as cover not a shield.

Unit Quality.  Most units are assumed to be competent. Units such as a General’s bodyguard may be considered to be better than average and rated Elite while civilians, untrained levies and troops who are demoralized or disaffected should be rated  Poor.

Formations and Facing. Units normally form as a loose cluster of figures all facing the same direction, the unit’s front is then considered to be the area directly in front of it and reaching out to 45 degrees of either side of straight ahead. Everything else is its flank. A unit may form into a circle but may not move if it does so.
Skirmishers. Light infantry may disperse as skirmishers with more than an inch between figures and with each figure facing as desired. Their facing is then determined individually.
Hedgehog. Heavy Infantry with long 2 handed spears may take a whole turn to form up in a hedgehog with bases touching, at least 2 ranks deep. They may face out in all directions and then have no flank. As soon as the unit moves it is no longer in hedgehog. Units in hedge hog count as defending an obstacle if charged frontally,
Shield wall. Heavy infantry may take a turn to form a shield wall with figures in base to base contact and at least 2 ranks deep. The shield wall will move at reduced speed but counts as being in cover. Infantry with long 2 handed spears get the same benefit with the reach of their spears and the think cluster of spear shafts providing the cover.
Garrison. Any infantry defending fortifications or buildings lose all formation but may face in any direction and the unit is considered to not have any flank in a direction that at least 1 figure is facing.

Magic. Magic is problematic in a simple game.  In my limited experience, magic in traditional heroic tales usually appears most often in the form of enchanted weapons or armour, spells or potions used in private, far from the battlefield, or as summonings of monsters or magical creatures, undead and the like. Magical items will raise the power of the owner by 1 or will bestow a special capability, speed, invisibiity etc  as defined by the GM. Pre-game enchantments and potions are probably best written into the scenario with both the effect and how it is dispelled. In the same manner a summoning may just be represented by adding a  special unit or creature to that side’s order of battle or the magician may have to try to raise it during the game. Apart from that, magicians are treated as unarmed heroes whose power may not be used in combat but they may use the magic rule to cast a spell instead of moving. Spells are each rated by their Power ranging from 1 to 4. When casting a spell roll 1 die. A modified roll of 4,5, 6 indicates success. A modified score of 1, 2 or 3 indicates  a lot of chanting and hand waving with no visible result. A modified roll of 0 or less means the spell goes wrong and the magician will suffer a horrible death.  Add the power of the wizard to the die roll then subtract the power of the spell he is attempting  (for example, a Power 1 wizard tries to cast a level 3 spell he will have a cumulative modifier of -2 (+1 -3). He needs to roll a 6 to succeed, and on a roll of 1 or 2 will die a horrible death. (Priests may be treated in the same way but may not use spells, only prayer, preaching and, of course, loud choruses of "Hallelujah!".)

Fireballs/lightning bolts etc: Each inflicts 1 hit on a target within 12” to the front. The power of the spell is equal to the number of fireballs being cast.
Summoning a demon. A demon is treated as a single heavily armoured hero or a beast. The power of the demon is equal to the power of the spell. The demon will appear next to the magician and may be moved immediately. In order to control the demon, the spell must be successfully repeated each turn. On any turn that it is not controlled, the demon will attack the nearest unit of either side and then leave the table.
Enchantment. An enchantment allows a magician to control a hero including a player hero. The magician must have line of sight to the hero within 6”. The power of the spell is equal to 1+ the power of the hero being enchanted. If successful the controlling player may make any valid move with the enchanted hero including attacking his own side. The control lasts until the magician’s next turn at which it must be repeated to maintain control. If a 0 is rolled the hero sees the wizard and slays him with a thrown dagger or something suitable.
Confusion/Illusion. This is a Power 1 spell and causes 1 unit within 12” and line of sight to halt in confusion. It immediately loses hedgehog formation if applicable and may not make a charge reaction this turn or move or shoot on its next turn.
Others. Any spells desired, illusions, raising the dead etc may be set out and assigned a power level by the GM before a game.

Stout Hearts  Part 2. Playing the game.

Initiative. At the start of each turn each side rolls one die and adds the General’s Power. The side with the highest score chooses whether to go first or second for that turn only. In case of a tie, the previous turn’s sequence is repeated.

Sequence of play. The first player issues and resolves any challenges then moves and/or shoots with any of his units then resolves any melees. The second player may be able to react to the charge. Once all combat is resolved repeat reversing roles. Do any end of turn activities called for by the scenario then start the next turn.

Challenges. Each player turn, one hero may issue a challenge instead of moving or shooting. Any opposing hero within 12” may accept. The heroes will move into contact between the armies and will proceed to fight a melee. The melee will continue immediately until one of the heroes is struck down and killed or captured or is forced to retreat.  Once the duel is over, the winner may retire a move and the turn continues. If the winner had a lower power he will immediately gain 1 Power.

Orders. All units and groups are assumed to move in response to orders whether of the general or their unit commander.  No order is required to shoot or rally.  A player’s personal figure may always move as the player wishes (subject to the rules of course). If the player’s hero is also a unit commander, the unit will always obey his orders.

If the player’s hero is the general then all units within 24” of him will follow orders unless  of course they  happen to be under the control of another player’s hero and he decides not to. If the general is not a player general then he must roll 1 die at the start of his turn. On a 6 he must order at least ⅓ of his units to advance at least ½ move or charge. On a roll of 1 he must order at least ⅓ of his units to fall back at least ½ move. On any other roll he may issue orders as the player wishes.

If a unit or a non-player hero is not within 24” of the general and a player wants it to move, roll 1 die with  a modified score of 4,5 or 6 indicating that it has received the order or is moving on its own initiative.

+1 if Elite, -1 if Poor, + the Power of the non player hero if alone or if the hero is the unit’s leader.

Units  in ambush who have an enemy within shooting or charge range must take an order test if the player wishes them to remain hidden and NOT charge or shoot.

Heavily armoured infantry or any infantry in shieldwall: 4”
Other heavy infantry not in shieldwall: 8"
Light Infantry, Elephants 12”
Heavily Armoured Cavalry: 12"
Other Heavy Cavalry 16” 
Light Cavalry, Flying Creatures 20"
Wagons, pack animals, civilians 8”
Light Artillery 4"
Heavy Artillery may not move.

Units may move forward up to their full move which may include wheeling or may retreat straight back at ½ speed while facing the enemy. They may also turn then 90 or 180 degrees then move ½ move. No individual may move farther than the unit’s  maximum. Skirmishers and light cavalry may move full speed in any direction and change facing as needed.

Interpenetration. It takes a whole move for 1 unit to move through a friendly unit except that cavalry and light infantry may pass through skirmishers and vice versa without penalty. Cavalry which begin their move in melee with enemy light infantry may pass through them.

Dismounting. It takes a whole move for cavalry or infantry mounted on any form of transport to dismount or to remount their transport.

Heroes which are part of a unit move with it. Heroes on their own move may move in any direction at light infantry or light cavalry rates unless heavy armed and may face any direction.

Charging. A charge is a move into contact and must bring as many figures as possible into contact. The target of the charge must be at least partially within the unit’s front before it moves. If at least 1 figure is within the enemy’s front then the charge must be made against the enemy’s front. A unit may not charge through the front of one unit to attack a different one.  Heavy cavalry which has been charged from the front may declare a counter charge and will meet the charging unit ½ way.

Terrain. The nature of terrain features will need to be decided by the GM. in general, skirmishers are not slowed by terrain being assumed to run when needed and to move easily around obstacles. Other troops move at ½ speed if they cross one or more obstacles or move through a terrain feature which is deemed passable but an obstacle to movement. Some terrain  features may be classed as impassible to some troop types. Normally all terrain features are impassible to wagons except along roads and trails. Visibility into or within woods etc is 2”. Infantry concealed on the edge of woods  will not be seen until the enemy is within 2” unless they break concealment to move or shoot at which time they may be seen as normal.

Archers on foot may shoot up to 16” to their front but may not move and shoot in the same turn. If their unit is in melee but they are not in contact they may fire over head at the enemy unit but may only target enemy figures who are not in contact.
Light infantry with javelins or slings may move 1/2 move and shoot up to 4” to their front at any point during their move. They may also shoot if being charged.
Light cavalry may move up to 1/2 move and shoot up to 4” in any direction at any point during their move.
Heavy Cavalry with may shoot up to 12” with bows if they don’t move or may throw javelins as they charge.
Heavy Infantry with javelins may shoot as they charge or if they are being charged.
Artillery may shoot 36” and ignores armour but may not move and shoot. Light artillery has up to 2 crew. Heavy artillery has up to 4 crew. Heavy artillery may break down walls. The strength of a wall must be determined by the GM. Palisades should be around 3, weak stone walls 6 and fortresses, 12. Each hit scored by heavy artillery reduces the strength of the wall by 1. When reduced to 0 a breach 1 figure wide is created.

Effect. Roll 1 die for each figure shooting, needing a 5 or 6 to hit. The owning player may assign hits on a unit in any way he chooses.
+ Power if a hero or +1 if Elite archers
-1 if the target is in cover or are skirmishers or if the line of sight is obscured (for example if firing over friendly troops).

Armour Saves. For each figure hit roll 1 die to see if their armour has been overcome. Light armour is worth 1 point, Armour 2 points, Heavy Armour 3 points, +1 if carrying a shield, +1 if mounted on a horse. If the die roll is greater than the armour value then the figure is hit. If not the hit does not count. Infantry with 2 handed spears cancel the horse point. Infantry will 2 handed cutting weapons reduce the value of infantry armour by 1. (For example an infantryman with light armour and a shield will be hit if the armour roll is 3 or higher)

Melee. Pair up opposing figures in contact. Roll 1 die for each figure in contact and compare them. Any figure which has a higher total than his opponent will inflict a hit if the enemy's armour is overcome (reminder: heroes lose 1 power for each hit if reduced to 0 the next hit will kill them, others are killed if hit). If multiple figures are fighting 1 enemy, compare his one die roll against each enemy roll . The single figure may only inflict 1 hit but if he rolls higher than more than 1 enemy, he may choose which to hit. The single figure however, may be hit by more than one enemy.

Die Modifiers (The maximum modifier that may be used is +4)
+ relative quality modifier (hero = +power, elite = +1, poor =-1) (for example a Power 1 hero fighting an average warrior would add +1 but if fighting a poor levy would add +2)
+1 charging at least 6" over open ground.
+1 if in cover or defending an obstacle or a hill or if in shield wall
+2 if fighting the enemy flank or rear

Resolution. Compare the number of hits suffered by both sides after a round of melee. Include missile fire hits that turn. If the hits were equal or the difference is only 1 then it is a tied melee and will continue during the next melee phase unless either side retreats voluntarily. Front rank casualties may be replaced by rear rank figures.

If one side suffered at least 2 hits more than it inflicted it will recoil ½ move facing the enemy and must rally on its next move. The enemy must advance up to ½ move in an attempt to keep contact unless they are defending cover or an obstacle or pass an orders check to hold their position. If an elephant is forced to fall back it will turn in a random direction and move full speed, charging into contact and fighting a round of melee out of sequence against the first unit of either side which it meets. After one round the elephant will be killed by its mahout or wonder off and be removed. 

Rallying. Roll 1 die. 4,5,6 = recover and may act as normal next turn. 1,2,3 = Retreat a full move leaving the table for good if the edge is reached. 
+1 if Elite, -1 if Poor, +power of hero General who has joined the unit.
If a player hero is with a unit which retreats he may choose to leave it. Other heroes must pass an orders check to leave the retreating unit.

Winning and Losing. It is best to have a mission to be accomplished within a reasonable time frame but in the absence of any other conditions or of one player conceding, this is heroic warfare so the fight is to the finish!


  1. Ross I shall print theses out a give them a go very soon,hopefully in the next day or so.They read well and promise much I feel...
    best wishes

  2. These look interesting - think I have some GW plastic figures somewhere !

    1. Well, dig 'em out! No idea yet if the rules will work as hoped, the more test games the better!

  3. Ross,
    This proves my dictum that simple is good. The rules should prove fun to play out. Unfortunately the gang won't be able to schedule a game for three weeks.

    1. There is a big pile of rules and chrome on the cutting room floor. Only some games will tell if it was too much, too little or about right.

  4. Very nice work, Ross ! These rules may be just what it takes to get me actually gaming instead of just painting stuff.


    1. Well you shouldn't need many figures for a small skirmish game at least. I could see some flats in play.

  5. It's going to be another busy weekend, but I do have lots of appropriate figures....

    1. No rules for giant eyeballs yet, you'll have to improvise....

  6. Ross,

    Alan has posted an account of his first battle with your rules:

    -- Jeff