BW, Game of Thrones, and Depicting a Mass Battle !![SPOILERS for Season 4, Ep 9]!!

The question of how to handle mass combat between two armies in BW is common enough here on these boards. So much so that a couple of ambitious burners went ahead and made their own systems for it. And, no doubt, I share that love of mechanics which is why I’m such an avid wargamer. So why doesn’t BW have official mechanics for battles at the army level? Because BW is personal, I believe.

The individual is what BW cares about. How is this battle affecting the PC and how is the PC affecting the battle? The battle isn’t played out at a macro level because then the individual is lost. No, we’ve got to keep zoomed in and watch the PC make those hard decisions that put her Beliefs on the line. And so that’s why I could not help but to love the battle depicted in the “Watchers on the Wall” episode of Game of Thrones.

Every scene and every decision was focused either on Jon or Sam (and maybe Alliser?), or events triggered by those characters (the PCs!). Each scene took place in a clear and separate location even though it was all happening in one big battle. Beliefs were tested over and over again. Here are some of the moments that stood out for me:

-Sam Belief about not leaving Gilly again and his Oath to the Watch is tested. Stay with Gilly in hiding or fight alongside his Brothers - he promised both! He chooses to fight and earns a Fate point for that and a Moldbreaker point for leaving Gilly!

-Ser Alliser, despite winning the Duel of Wits vs Jon in the previous episode and not collapsing the tunnel, admits he was wrong. Collapsing the tunnel was probably part of Snow’s Beliefs at that time (“I must halt the Wilding Army. I will convince Alliser to collapse the tunnel!”), and it’s nice to see it addressed again.

-Sam uses Oratory/Persuasion on Pypar at the wall and rallies him for the battle… maybe a Linked die for Pypar’s upcoming Steel test?

-Ser Alliser gives a massive Oratory/Command speech to the men at the Castle and rallies them to fight the Wildings.

-Jon Snow finds himself Commanding the soldiers on top of the wall, ensuring arrows and oil continue to rain down upon their enemy.

-Sam passes a massive Steel test as his buddy Pypar is shot and dies in his arms.

-Sam shoots his Crossbow into the charging Warg - Superb Result moved to the head!

-Ser Alliser gets into a Fight! with Tormund but is wounded and manages to Disengage.

-The Giants are a great conflict that Jon must deal with. His Command test sends barrels down to blow them up, but it’s a failure. In fact, his failure ends up enraging the BIG ONE who throws open the gate all on his own. One successful Command test later and Jon’s men head down there to stop this marauding monster. We don’t need to test for that fight, as the intent was to stop the giant and the roll was successful.

-Jon makes another Command test to ensure Eddison holds the wall. Success! Let the scythe swing!

-Jon enters the fight in the castle and wins his Sword vs, clearing out the Wildings from the tunnel location.

-Sam Sneaks around and frees Ghost!

-Jon and Styr now get into a Fight! Hurray for a Found Weapon and a Superb Result to an unarmored head.

-Ygritte finally gets a bead on Snow and can’t fire. Maybe Snow passed a Seduction test causing her to Hesitate? And this is where Sam’s successful Persuasion/Command test to little Olly pays off? Ouch, nice one, Sam.

-Jon wins a Sword Verses test against Tormund and the battle is over.

-Jon follows another Belief by giving up his sword “Longclaw” to Sam, living up to his promise to Mormont never to lose it.

So while this battle involved a hundred vs a hundred thousand troops, it wasn’t about types of units vs other types, maneuvering, charges, feints, and whatnot. All the conflicts and the battle itself were decided by a few individual actions tied directly to Beliefs. This is how we prefer to play such mass combats in BW.


I think Ygritte failed her Steel test based on some previously lost DoW with Snow.

Nicely done commentary with excellent examples. I enjoyed it so much, I may even start watching the show! Well Done!