Great Battles Handbook

Copyright Edgar Leo © 2005

Edited by Steve Wilcoxon for The Guild Companion

"A Victorious unit has the capability of making any enemy unit with a negative Morale value surrender. A Surrendered unit is removed from the battle."

1. Some Terms Used

Numeric value between x and ten times x, resulting from throwing x ten sides dice (0 is 10).
Military unit
Each of the parts in which an army can be divided. Units are formed by a determined number of soldiers, riders, chariots, elephants, etc., or by a single creature or war machine. All soldiers in a unit are supposed to carry the same equipment.
Round (rnd)
Period of 30 seconds of real time (half a min), in which each unit can act once.
Hexagon (Hex)
Each of the divisions of the battle field. It represents the space that a unit occupies, equivalent to 30 m2 or 100 feet2 of real terrain. When drawing the battle field DIN A3 (40x30 or 20x15 Hex) or DIN A4 (30x20 or 15x10 Hex) sheets are either recommended.
Missile attack
Any attack with a range higher than 1 Hex (arrows, rocks). The rest are melee.

2. Normal Unit Descriptions

General description:

Name(# initial number of soldiers or chariots in the unit; Mov movement rate in hexagons for normal/charge pace; AC armor class that can be worn; RP maximum initial resistance points)

Description of the unit.

Irregulars (# 200; Mov 1/2 Hex; AC 0; RP 100)

All regions' irregular troops are composed of unarmored soldiers on foot. These soldiers are mainly poor servants conscripted at times of war (untrained, what means level 1 or 2), armed with cheap weapons such as Spears, Bows, Slings or Maces (usually work tools).

Engineers (# 100; Mov 1/2 Hex; AC 0; RP 50)

Engineers units are not allowed in combat, but are present in every important army. Their functions are many, like repairing wood structures and damaged war machines.

Infantry (# 200; Mov 1/2 Hex; AC 0 to 4; RP 100)

Units composed of regular soldiers on foot (trained, level > 2). These are specialists depending on their weapons such as Slingmen, Bowmen, Crossbowmen, Swordmen, Macemen or Spearmen.

Cavalry (# 50; Mov 2/4 Hex; AC 0 to 4; RP 180)

Units composed of soldiers mounted on horses, camels or dromedaries depending on the culture (trained, level > 2). Riders can move faster and are allowed to charge against Infantry units. They can be armed with melee or missile weapons, but not with two-handed ones.

Falcated chariots (# 20; Mov 2/3 Hex; AC 0 to 4; RP 150)

These are units of war chariots, driven by two horses, whose wheels have been fitted with protruding knives. Their only attack consists of charging against Infantry units.

Quadrigae (# 10; Mov 2/3 Hex; AC 0 to 4; RP 150)

These are units of war chariots pulled by a team of four horses in one line in front. There are two men riding in each chariot, one to drive and another one armed with a Bow or throwing Javelins. Besides, it can also charge against Infantry units.

Elephants (# 10; Mov 1/2 Hex; AC 3 or 4; RP 250)

These clever animals can be trained to be mounts, but only a few armies can use them in battle. Because of their thick skin, elephants are equipped with heavy armor. They can attack by smashing enemy soldiers or they can be used to demolish wood structures as a Battering ram.

General notes about fantasy units:

Hobbits rarely go to war, but if necessary they will form Irregulars and Slingmen units.

Elves love horses and other nature creatures, so they are not likely to use Cavalry in war. They form mainly elite Swordmen, Spearmen and Bowmen units.

Dwarfs can't ride. They use Spears, Maces, Crossbows, Battle axes, or War hammers; always with heavy armor. Even Irregular dwarven units are treated as heavy Infantry, although untrained.

Orcs mainly form light armored units, however some elite units can wear heavy armor. Orcs mount on large wolfs, which are treated as light Cavalry. High orcs only form heavy Infantry.

3. War Machine Descriptions

An Engineer unit can repair any of the following war machines at a rate of 10 RP per round, or build a Ladder or a normal Battering ram at 5 RP per round (there must be a near forest). To do so, it must occupy an adjacent Hex and not move. Several Engineers units can work together.

Assault towers and Covered battering rams are immune to arrows, but they are not accessible to all armies. All war machines can be burned with fire arrows.

Ladder (# 1; Mov 1/- Hex; AC 0; RP 40)

High wooden ladder carried by men on foot. They can be fixed from an adjacent Hex to a Wall section. Once fixed it can't be moved, but allows one Infantry unit per rnd to climb to the top. That unit can enter onto a free Wall section, or attack a defending enemy unit from the top of the Ladder.

Assault tower (# 1; Mov 1/- Hex; AC 0; RP 70)

They are huge wooden scaffolds equipped with wheels, built with the only purpose of assaulting Walls. It consists of a Ladder with platforms, covered with a wood parapet on its front and both sides that protects it from missile attacks.

Battering ram (# 1; Mov 1/- Hex; AC 0; RP 40)

A big trunk carried by men on foot and designed for rushing several times upon a structure until it batters down. It's a simple weapon (just part of a tree), accessible to any army, but only effective against wood structures. Strikes once per round.

Covered battering ram (# 1; Mov 1/- Hex; AC 0; RP 70)

A Battering ram equipped with wheels and covered with a wood roof, so it is immune to arrows. It's pushed by men from the inside and it is used as a normal Battering ram.

Catapult (# 1; Mov 1/- Hex; AC 0; RP 40)

This ancient siege machine, pulled by horses, can be used against units or structures. It can throw a large amount of small rocks at a unit or a great single rock at a structure, in both cases affecting only 1 Hex. It needs one whole round to be reloaded, in which the player must decide the kind of ammunition before firing.

4. Some Fantasy Units

Dragon (# 1; Mov walking 2/4 Hex; Mov flying 3/6 Hex; AC 4; RP 300)

On earth, a Dragon can attack up to two units per round, with his fauces and with his claws; only one with his claws from the air. When flying he can only be hit with missile weapons. A Dragon is able to use his fire breath once every 4 rounds (he's active meanwhile), affecting the 3 Hexes to his front. Besides, he can give a blow with his tail to a structure that is treated as a Catapult attack.

Giant eagle (# 1; Mov walking 2/4 Hex; Mov flying 3/6 Hex; AC 4; RP 300)

On earth, a Giant eagle can attack up to two units per round, with his beak and with his claws; only one with his claws from the air. When flying he can only be hit with missile weapons. On the ground, he can beat his wings with the following effects: A) completely stop all missiles that have been shot at him and at a unit sheltered at his rear, B) make an attack against all units in his front 3 Hexes, or C) make a Catapult attack against an adjacent structure.

Trolls (# 10; Mov 2/3 Hex; AC 4; RP 250)

They are giant creatures 4 m tall. They can throw big rocks, once each two rounds (1 rnd to reload). A troll unit can attack wood structures as a Battering ram. Trolls are armed with large clubs and their skin is so hard that they are treated as AC 4.

Ents (# 5; Mov 2/3 Hex; AC 4; RP 250)

Big and intelligent living trees of many species. They can attack by charging and smashing enemy units. They can also throw big rocks, once every two rounds (1 rnd to reload). Thanks to their great strength, they can hit structures as a Battering ram. Because of their thick wooden skin (AC 4) they are immune to arrows, but they can be burned.

5. Structure Descriptions

Wood structures can be demolished with Battering rams and Catapults, or can be burned using fire arrows. Bowmen and Crossbowmen can fire burning arrows, once every two rounds (1 rnd needed to reload). Fire arrows won't cause more damage than normal to units, but have a 30% chance to start a wooden structure burning. Burning structures lose 200 RP per rnd.

Adjacent Engineer units can repair wood structures at a rate of 100 RP per rnd (several units can work together). They also have a 30% chance per rnd of putting the fire on a burning structure.

Rock structures are much more resistant than wood or earth ones. They can only be effectively demolished with Catapults. Some could be simply indestructible.

Bridge (# 1; AC 0; RP wood/rock 3000/15000)

A Bridge can't be more than 1 Hex wide. It allows ground units to cross over rivers or cliffs, one by one. Bridges are important and easy to defend strategic spots.

Tower (# 1; AC 0; RP wood/earth/rock 2500/5000/12500)

A Tower is 1 Hex big. They can hold one Infantry unit or contain a fixed Catapult. Any unit inside, armed with missile weapons, can attack enemy units. However, outside units must demolish the tower, or burn it if it's made of wood, in order to harm any unit sheltered inside. Towers can be isolated on the battle field (watch Towers), or joined to a Wall as part of a fortification.

Homage tower (# 1; AC 0; RP wood/earth/rock 3500/7000/17500)

A Homage tower is a big Tower with thicker walls that is built inside a fortress. It's the last shelter when the enemy penetrates the stronghold. It is treated as a normal Tower except: A) it can hold up to five Infantry units, but no Catapults; and B) it has a Gate as if it were a small fortress.

Wall (# 1; AC 0; RP wood/earth/rock 2000/4000/10000)

A Wall section occupies 1 Hex. A closed group of Walls, one joined to another, constitutes a fortification. One Infantry unit can be fitted on the top of each Wall section, and attack enemy units from there. Defender units must accede to the top of the wall through previously determined points (ex., fixed stairs on a Wall section, a joined Tower, etc.). All units on the top can pass from one Wall section to the next. Outside enemy units will only get to the top of a Wall by means of a Ladder.

Unlike in a Tower, units on a Wall can be attacked by outside units with missile weapons. However, all units in the fortress (behind the Wall line), are covered from all enemy's attacks.

Gate (# 1; AC 0; RP wood/iron 1000/5000)

A Gate gives access to a stronghold. It's usually the weak point in order to penetrate a fortress with Battering rams, and that's why it is generally flanked by defensive Towers. Some strongholds may have an iron Gate that can't be burned.

6. Unit Characteristics

  1. Name: The name given to a unit. It must be different for each unit (ex., Swordmen 1.2 is the second unit of its type for player 1; Bowmen 2.5 is the fifth for player 2, etc.).
  2. Race: The race of all soldiers in a unit (only if using a fantasy world).
  3. Level (lvl) and Experience Points (XP): A unit's lvl is a measure of its skillfulness. Experience gained in combat makes a unit going up lvls. A unit gains 1 XP per each RP of damage delivered to the enemy in combat. To go up a new level a unit needs 1000 XP (when the round ends). Units generally begin as Irregulars with level 1. Professional units are at least level 3. Player's units could keep their level and XP for future battles if they survive. When level 10 is reached, the unit is considered as elite. Over level 20, the unit is considered as veteran.
  4. Morale (Mor): The morale of a unit modifies its combat bonuses. Morale has an initial value of +0. A unit gains 1 Mor per each RP of damage delivered to the enemy, and loses 1 Mor per each RP of damage received in combat (not due to fatigue). It is recalculated at the end of each round.
  5. Resistance Points (RP): Gives an idea of the endurance of a unit. They are consumed in combat or in exhausting maneuvers. When a unit reaches 0 RP it is removed from the battle field.
  6. Movement (Mov): The number of Hex that a unit can move in 1 round (normal/charge pace).
  7. Encumbrance Points (EP): The amount of equipment that the unit is carrying (weapons, shields and armors). It modifies the RP lost per round of activity. Every equipment has EP that are added to the total EP value. Engineers, War machines and Fantasy units have 1 EP (no equipment carried).
  8. Armor Class (AC): Armor reduces the damage received from an attack. Units can wear no armor (AC0 - Clothes), light armor (AC1 - Leather and AC2 - Rigid leather) or heavy armor (AC3 - Chain mail and AC4 - Plate).
  9. Shields: Like armor, shields reduce the damage received.
  10. Weapons: The kind of weapons or attacks determine the damage delivered. Each unit can carry up to 3 weapons.

7. Weapons & Attacks Description

Weapons and Attacks Damage1,2 Range EP
Swords 3d10 S 1 Hex 0.2
Maces 3d10 C 1 Hex 0.2
Spears 3d10 P 1 Hex 0.2
Two-handed swords (Two-handed)4 5d10 S 1 Hex 0.4
Flails (Two-handed)4 5d10 C 1 Hex 0.4
Halberds (Two-handed)4 5d10 P 1 Hex 0.4
Battle axes3 3d10 S 1/3 Hex 0.2
War hammers3 3d10 C 1/3 Hex 0.2
Javelins3 3d10 P 1/3 Hex 0.2
Slings4 3d10 C 6 Hex 0.1
Bows4 3d10 P 6 Hex 0.1
Crossbows4,8 5d10 P 6 Hex 0.3
Cavalry (charge) 4d10 C 1 Hex -
Falcated chariots (charge) 6d10 C 1 Hex -
Quadrigae (charge) 4d10 C 1 Hex -
Elephants (charge) 6d10 C 1 Hex -
Elephants (trample)7 6d10 C 1 Hex -
Battering ram1,5 250 1 Hex -
Catapult (charge of rocks) 7d10 C 8 Hex -
Catapult (one big rock)1,5 2000 8 Hex -
Dragon (fauces and claws)7 6d10 P 1 Hex -
Dragon (fire breath)6 6d10 P 1 Hex -
Eagle (beak and claws)7 6d10 P 1 Hex -
Eagle (beat of wings)6 4d10 C 1 Hex -
Trolls (clubs or trample) 6d10 C 1 Hex -
Trolls (rocks) 6d10 C 6 Hex -
Ents (trample)7 6d10 C 1 Hex -
Ents (rocks) 6d10 C 6 Hex -


  1. The damage delivered by a weapon is determined with ten sides dice, except for the Battering ram and the Catapult (one rock), that deliver fixed damage.
  2. Next to the damage it is shown the kind of damage: S Slash, C Crush and P Puncture, which determines the quality of the protection with each Armor Class.
  3. Battle axes, War hammers and Javelins are melee weapons. They can also be thrown with a 3 Hex range, but then they cannot be recovered. However, any unit can carry up to 3 weapons.
  4. Flails, Halberds, Two-handed swords and missile weapons (Slings, Bows and Crossbows) can't be used with a shield.
  5. Battering rams and Catapults (one rock) can only be used against structures. A Catapult has a maximum range of 8 Hex, but also a minimum range of 4 Hex.
  6. Dragon's fire breath and Eagle's beat of wings are treated as missile attacks and affect all units in the 3 Hexes in front of the creature.
  7. Some units such as Elephants, Ents, Dragons, and Eagles, don't need weapons to attack.
  8. Crossbows need one round to be reloaded (fires once every two rnds).

8. Armors Description

Armor1 Slash Crush Puncture EP
AC0 - No armor 0 0 0 0
AC1 - Leather 5 5 5 0.3
AC2 - Rigid leather 5 10 5 0.6
AC3 - Chain mail 10 5 10 1.0
AC4 - Plate 10 10 10 1.5
Protection for kind of weapon3
Shields2 Melee Missile EP
Target shield 5 0 0.2
Normal shield 5 5 0.4
Full shield 5 10 0.6


  1. All units, except Irregulars, can wear armor.
  2. Shields can't be used with Slings, Bows, Crossbows and other two-handed weapons. Only Infantry and Cavalry units can use shields, but Cavalry can't use Full shields.
  3. Armor and shields reduce received damage in the amount shown in protection. Shield's protection is added to the armor's value.

9. The Riddle of the Steel

9.1. Initiative

At the beginning of a round each player makes a 1d10 roll (resolve ties with another 1d10 roll between the tied players). The player with the highest result will act first with one of his units (move, attack, or wait). Play then rotates between players with the first player going again after the last player. Once all players are done with all units the round is over. This means that players with fewer units will finish first.

9.2. Movement

Units can move an integer number of hexagons up to its maximum movement rate (depending on the unit and its pace).

Units don't lose RP moving at a normal pace. Due to fatigue, when moving at a charge pace they lose a number of RP equal to the unit's EP total value per Hex moved over their movement rate at a normal pace (round up to the next integer value).

Ex., a Cavalry unit (Mov 2/4) is carrying Swords, Chain mail and Normal shield (total EP of 1.6). It can move 1 or 2 Hexes indefinitely at a normal pace. When charging it can move 3 or 4 Hexes but, due to fatigue, loses 1.6 x (3 -2) = 2 RP or 1.6 x (4 -2) = 4 RP, respectively.

Ex., a Spearmen unit (Mov 1/2), is equipped only with Spears and AC2 (0.8 EP). It can move 1 Hex at a normal pace, or 2 Hex at a charge pace losing 0.8 x (2 -1) = 1 RP.

9.3. Combat

Units can attack any enemy in their weapons' range. Melee weapons only allow attacking adjacent units. When attacking, units lose a number of RP per attack made equal to the unit's EP total value (round up to the next integer value).

The damage delivered is: the weapon's resulting damage - the enemy's total protection + the unit's level - the enemy's level + special bonuses. If the result is 0 or less, no damage has been delivered. The total value is taken from the current enemy's RP. If the RP left are 0 or below, the unit is removed from the battle.

Ex., a Swordmen unit (lvl 7; 0.6 EP; Swords, damage 3d10 S) attacks an adjacent Macemen unit (lvl 5; AC2 and Normal shields, total protection 10). Rolls 3d10 and gets a 14. The damage delivered is 14 +7 -5 -10 = 6 RP. The Swordmen unit loses 1 RP due to the fatigue.

Special bonuses in combat:

  1. All attacks with melee weapons against Slingmen, Bowmen or Crossbowmen, deliver double damage.
  2. All attacks with Swords, Maces, Two-handed swords, Flails, Battle axes or War hammers (melee non-pole weapons), deliver double damage against units armed with Halberds, Spears or Javelins (pole weapons).
  3. All units able to charge (Cavalry, Quadrigae, and Elephants), always deliver a charge attack besides the normal one against Infantry units. If they attack or are attacked by a Spearmen unit (with Spears, Halberds or Javelins), they receive the charging attack besides the normal instead of the Spearmen unit.
    • Falcated chariots can't carry weapons so they only are able to charge.
  4. Each unit in the battle field is surrounded by 6 Hex, 3 in its front and 3 behind (its rear and its 2 flanks). If a unit is attacked from one of its flanks or its rear, the enemy's attack receives +5 or +15 to the damage, respectively. Unit orientation is an important factor in the game.
  5. Due to the terrain, the attacking unit can get special bonuses: +10 to the damage if it is autochthonous (except in plains or semiplains), and +5 to the damage if it occupies an advantageous position (on the top of a cliff, a hill, a Tower, a Wall, and other easy to defend spots).

Ex., a Cavalry unit (lvl 4; Swords, damage 3d10 S) attacks other adjacent Macemen unit (lvl 5; AC2 and Normal shields) from its right flank (+5 damage). Rolls 3d10 and gets a 16; it also rolls 4d10 resulting 25 for charging. The damage delivered is 16 +4 +5 -5 -10 = 10 RP by the Swords, and 25 +4 +5 -5 -15 = 14 RP by the charge

Combat rules:

  1. Any unit in melee combat can decide to disengage and flee. It must be indicated before the enemy or the disengaging units have attacked or moved in the round.
    • The disengaging unit and the enemy unit will both make a 1d10 roll and add their level. If the disengaging unit has the higher result, it will flee without consequences. However, if the enemy gets the higher result, it will be able to attack the disengaging unit before it flees with a +15 bonus to the damage (attack from the rear). After that, the enemy can pursue the fleeing unit.
    • If a unit reaches the enemy without having moved all its permitted Hexes for a round, the two units are considered to be engaged in melee. A unit armed with missile weapons can't attack when in melee combat (except Quadrigae units).
  2. A Catapult or a unit armed with missile or throwing weapons can't attack an enemy unit engaged in melee combat with another, without affecting both. In this case, the damage delivered is divided among all adjacent engaged units.
  3. Missile and throwing weapon attacks against a unit on the ground level from a Tower or a Wall have their range increased by 1 Hex and receive +5 to the delivered damage.
  4. Two or more units of the same type can pile up and join in one. The total current RP can't exceed the initial maximum value for the type of unit and they must occupy adjacent Hexes. The new resulting unit will have the sum of RP from all joined units and a +0 to its Morale.
    • In the same way, one unit can be divided into two or more units of the same type. The resulting units will share the total RP from the divided unit, and they will have a reduced Morale equal to the current Mor value - ten times the number of divided units (see 2nd example).
    • Joined and divided units can't act in the round they are created.
    • Ex., three adjacent Spearmen units with 20 RP, 30 RP and 40 RP, and negative Morale values, are piled up into one new Spearmen unit with 90 RP and +0 Mor.
    • Ex., a Cavalry unit with 160 RP and +5 Mor, is divided into two adjacent units with 80 RP and +5 -10 x2 = -15 Mor each. If it were divided into four units, they would have 40 RP and +5 -10 x4 = -35 Mor each.
  5. Two adjacent allied units can interchange their positions, but that will count as if they had each moved 2 Hexes, instead of 1. If a unit's movement rate for a round is less than 2 Hexes, the maneuver will take two rounds (you can't choose to move at a charge pace).
    • Any unit can pass through another allied unit (ex., on a Bridge, on a Wall, etc.), but that will count as if it had moved 3 Hexes. If a unit's movement rate for a round is less than 3 Hex, the maneuver will take more than one round (moving at a charge pace is not allowed).

Morale bonuses in combat:

A unit's Mor value has the following bonuses to the received and delivered damages:

Morale State Delivered damage Received damage
+80 and more Victorious1 +8 -8
+60 to +79 Excellent +6 -6
+40 to +59 Very high +4 -4
+20 to +39 High +2 -2
-19 to +19 Normal +0 +0
-20 to -39 Low -2 +2
-40 to -59 Very low -4 +4
-60 to -79 Panic -6 +6
-80 and less Surrender2 -8 +8


  1. A Victorious unit has the capability of making any enemy unit with a negative Morale value surrender. A surrendered unit is removed from the battle.
  2. When a unit reaches the Surrender state it is removed from the battle.


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