A question about the conflict rules

Hypothetically assume two teams of mice are fighting a snake. in a particular round, Team A picks Attack, Team B picks Defend, and the snake picks Feint. What happens? Does the snake pick which team it feints against? If this is the case, if the snake feints against Team A does Team B get to roll defense to recover disposition?

The snake feints against the defend because that’s his best option. The attackers get to whack the snake, though.

Oh good, that’s what I was thinking would be the solution. Thanks for confirming.

So if two teams are fighting the same target the target chooses which one it goes up against? If a situation where the two player teams choose defend and the gm team chooses feint then one team gets a versus test while the other gets an independent test?

Also I was wondering how to explain to people that are confused about the reasons why people on teams have to take turns while the snake gets to take an action every action? It seems that each character should get an action each turn by having teams of one instead of multiple players on a team trading off actions. I understand this grants an incredible slant in the players favor and makes the gm weaker but that is what is making sense to my players.

Defend doesn’t get to test against Feint. So even if you’re not attacked while defending against the Feint, you don’t test. The interaction chart says no testy.

We form teams because that’s how Mouse Guard operate, in teams. It also happens to be the rules to the game. We take turns because it is polite and the systems makes sure that everyone gets a chance to be in the spotlight. Taking turns also makes the fights more tactically rich since each member of the team can bring a different skill and a different weapon to the fight. You can get some pretty sweet synergies with teams that you can’t get with a single character.

I understand the reasoning behind politeness. But the action system I’m still having problems with.

I get that the mice use teamwork to accomplish their goals. But the problem is this, assume there are 2 teams with 2 mice per team fighting a snake. Mouse A and Mouse B are team 1 with Mouse C and Mouse D on team 2.

Now on action one Mouse A, Mouse C, and the snake get an action. Mouse A attacks, Mouse C attacks, and the Snake attacks.

Mouse A and the Snake have an independent test against each other while Mouse C gets an independent test without any risk.

Then Action 2 comes around where Mice B and D attack and the snake attacks.

Mouse B and the snake beat on each other while D strikes without risk.

My questions is are: What are Mice B and D doing while A and C are doing action 1? and vice versa with A and C on action 2?
The snake gets to do something on both actions so why not the mice? Wouldn’t it make more sense for everyone to get a chance to do something on each action instead of half the players waiting around watching the other players. I understand that they are showing support to the other players but in actuality they are doing nothing during that action. It would make more sense if every player got an action on each action turn more like a turn system where everyone gets to perform an action but it’s assumed to be at the same time.

Hi Levi,

Quick question: Have you played the game yet?

That fight you described would be a bloody affair.

If the non-acting players are just sitting around waiting for their turn in this game, they’re not being very good players. There are rules for helping other members of your team. They require you to speak up and participate in the moment. When you do, you can give your teammate a helping die.

Also, I don’t have the book in front of my, but I think that when two teams have scripted similar actions, they must help one another and do not roll for resolution of actions separately. Therefore, for the two teams that both attack at the same time, only one team rolls. The other team offers help.


Ok I wasn’t aware of the two teams taking similar actions rule. But even with giving helping die that is really minimizing the amount of damage these mice can do. For instance if two mice on opposing teams had fighter 6 and each selected attack as their action why couldn’t both mice simply slash at the snake with their swords? If one fighter slashed with his it would have 8 dice to roll including the helping from the other team, and the weapon bonus on attack. however if 2 teams were attacking seperately they would each have 8 dice because they would have help from their teammate and their swords giving them 16 dice to roll instead of just 8 dice for ONE person to roll. I don’t see why two mice can’t simply both attack instead of one helping the other. That seems like far better teamwork to me.

I don’t have a problem with following the rules on combat it’s just that it doesn’t make sense that a mouse can’t make it’s own seperate attack which would be far more helpful to the team but instead it has to “give a helping die” to another player to roll. Being able to make your own attack test with your full fighter dice seems to be a lot more helpful than merely providing one extra dice to another player. If that player can use all of his dice then why can’t another?

It might just be the way the rules work so that everybody has an equal chance to succeed instead of having mice just beat the crap out of everything they see. But it seems if two mice are attacking that they should both be able to use their full fight.

I also disagree with the way disposition is done seeing that a team with 3 mice can just as well have the same disposition as a team of 1. Getting successes isn’t easy and for two extra mice to only give 2 helping dice for disposition doesn’t seem like that much help. Unless I’m mistaken on the rules and the mice add their base disposition to the team which I don’t think is correct.

One more thing, and I apologize for posting so many times in a row. I just want to let you know that I don’t mean to offend you. I have played the game only once and myself and my family enjoyed it a lot. We really like how you have taken David Petersen’s great story and really expanded it and have given us a chance to play in it.

I am merely looking for an explanation as to why things are the way they are in your game. The conflict system just doesn’t make sense to us very much. It’s just difficult to understand why mice can’t swarm their opponent? If they attack so well as a team it seems that would show in the game by letting them all make an action on each action in the conflict instead of only having one representative on the team act during an action and having the other members grant a lot less help by giving a helping die than if they were able to make independant moves but work as a team.

Hi Levi,

I appreciate that you disagree with the game structure and game balance that we built into Mouse Guard.

There are tactical reasons to work as a team – one mouse is much more vulnerable than a team of mice. It’s harder for individual mice to help one another – they have to guess each other’s actions as well as the opponent’s.

There are plenty of other games that offer the type of play you’re suggesting. I think D&D 4 does it very well. You might try it if you haven’t.


If you reduce your opponent to Disposition 0, you win your goal. However, if you just attack then your opponent is likely to get a huge compromise as you do so. As such, it depends on what your goal and your opponents goal is, but often doing nothing by attack is not the best plan.

There are so many variables here but lets give this a go.

First, there are advantages of having more mice in a team. They can acheive a higher disposition and combat rolls than each of the mice could seperately. This is very important in versus tests when a high roll will neutralise the opponent’s roll. For example, a three mice team with a 8d to defend, can neutralise a single 6d attack mouse and gain an average benefit of +1 disposition per round. The multi-mouse team also have a better spread of skills and wises allowing them to choose more than one action.

Second, your example assumes that all the Mice will do is Attack every round (as you are simply aggregating Attack dice), which is a dangerous and risky venture. A clever strategy can see a team gain their conflict goal with little or no compromise. An all Attack strategy will see that you always suffer a compromise in achieving your conflict goal.

Third, you are only have more than one team if you have more than one different Conflict Goals. As such, the two Mice are trying to acheive different things and this will allow the GM as the Snake do more damage to one than the other getting an even greater compromise on the team of his choice.

Fourth, if multiple teams attempt the same action then they help each other. As such, they will often neutralise each other unless they coordinate well.

I think I can see your disconnect. MG’s conflict system is an abstract one that provides tactical decision in a narrative framework. It doesn’t track space and time in a real sense like D&D4e. This is also shown by the fact that consequences (including injuries) don’t occur to the end of the conflict.

I think it is best to think of each phase as a frame in a comic book. As such, the phases could be narrated as happening simultaneously, but you can’t read simultaneous comic book frames just as you can’t play actions in an RPG simultaneously. Phases are designed to help break down combat to give a sense of movement and planning. They aren’t literally segments of time.

So, to answer your question, Mice B and D may be doing their phase 2 action at the same time as phase 1. Perhaps they are attacking the tail and Mice A and C are attacking the head. Each phase or comic book frame, sees the mice threatened by the snake but you don’t need to be literal. The snake might be biting Mice A and C with its attack test, but it might be rolling its tail over Mice B and D in the next phase/frame.

Remember also that actions are not literal. An attack is something that works toward its goal. Perhaps the Attack action on Mouse B, actually the fact that Mouse A is now stuck in the snake’s jaw, forcing Mouse A to divert their attack to help. Embrace the narrative freedom to provide more exciting action sequences that drive the story of the PCs as much as each sword swing.

You’re looking too much into the rules, I think. The other mice are fighting, but one is “leading” the attack, so to speak. The other mice fight via helping. The idea is that the mice are a unit – they work as a unit, overcome obstacles as a unit and fight as a unit (or teams, rather). So instead of someone “not doing anything,” the GM ought to be encouraging them to roleplay how they’re helping.

The whole purpose is roleplaying. Allowing all the mice to act brings to my mind too much of a D&D “individuals that happen to be together” mentality instead of the Mouse Guard “we are one” mentality.

Instead of some mice sitting out, I see it as all mice acting on every single turn – sometimes leading the way, and other times helping those leading.

I see MG as an exercise in creative collaboration, not a “is it my turn yet?” sort of thing.

(edit: Skywalker beat me to it and I think said it far better than I did.)

Levi, I’d add that yes, you could take 4 mice, each good at fighting, split them into 4 teams, and they might be very effective in Fight Conflicts.

But if you’ve built reasonable characters, characters that fit the spirit of the Mouse Guard comics and game, these four fighty mice will not be very good in other conflicts.

So teamwork is not just something that the Conflict rules build in, it’s also something that Recruitment builds in too. Sooner or later, any individual mouse is going to face a conflict that, mechanically, they have no chance of beating. That’s when they need another mouse around with different skills.

Don’t look at the extreme example of 4 mice, each a swordmaster. Look at a more moderate example of 4 mice, one good at fighting, one at running away, one at talking crazy to mice, and one at building insane mouse-powered contraptions. In a fight, 3 of the four mice won’t be able to muster enough dice to make it through one good attack from a small snake. One of them can. Same situation when they need to talk themselves free from the irate guardsmice of Elmoss. One can do it, three of them can’t.

If they work apart, then they’d suffer success or consequences apart. A lone mouse kills the snake after it eats his three friends. A lone mouse escapes, while his 3 friends are sold into weasel servitude by the currupt mayor.

If they work together, they share in success or failure. Maybe the snake wounds and tires them out, but they all make it out alive, and the beast will have a hard time finding other mice to swallow now that its heat pits have been burned out by the sciencemouse’s special brew.

Now, that all might not make you like the system better, but maybe it sheds some light on where it is coming from.

Thank you all very much for your responses. I found each of them to be very helpful in their own regard. I think the main problem is that I play with a lot of hardcore d&d players that are accustomed to only fighting and not very much problem solving which this game is far more based on.

After moving them along through Barkstone and into an argument with Celanawe I see that where this system shines more is in a conflict of wits and ingenuity. I still have a few problems with the physical combat aspect of the game however I have the same feelings towards a lot of other rpgs, nd none of them are issues that will prevent myself or my friends from enjoying this excellent game.

So thank you all for being so patient and for providing excellent clarifications. You have really helped simplify things so that I can better understand the rules of the game and have helped me become a far better GM for my friends. I hope that in the future I can provide as useful information to players on this site as you have all provided for me.

Thank you again, and I hope to see you all on this great community of players.