Questions about War

I was excited to try out the War subsystem and today I finally had the opportunity to try out a couple engagements! It brought up some questions though:

  1. When a unit is locked in combat, can it still receive orders or does it stay where it is no matter what? For example, if my mounted archers are in a disadvantageous fight with enemy medium cavalry and don’t break from the first round of combat, can I simply order them to disperse?
  2. How does the Disperse order work? Some units get +1D to Disperse but I can’t find what type of test it is anywhere.
  3. In battles, fatigue taxes the Health of all units by 2 every exchange. What happens if after 2 or 3 exchanges everyone is exhausted but neither side has won yet?
  4. The skills array for units from the Conscript and Rebel backgrounds is 0/0/0/0. Does that mean that they always have zero Health and Steel? Furthermore, does that mean they immediately become exhausted at the start of an engagement?
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Thanks for these!

  1. A unit locked in combat is locked in combat. It’s too late to turn your back on your enemy and disperse at this point. Decisions like that lead to slaughter and massacre.

  2. Good catch. Use the Regroup obstacles and this language: 'To disperse a unit, the war captain or commander tests Command based on the unit’s veterancy and unit type modifiers. If successful, the unit disperses. If failed, the unit breaks."

  3. Units engaged continue to fight—but they may not maneuver or pursue after the engagement. Otherwise, it’s time for those unattached heroes to make a difference.

  4. Let’s add this text to Other Exponents: “Conscripts possess B3 Health and B2 Steel; rebels possess B3 Steel and B2 Health.”


Cool, that all makes a lot more sense. :smiley:

I’ll be using an engagement in my actual game Monday and I’ll post here if anything else comes up. My players are relieving a siege, and I’m excited to see how it plays out! Thanks for answering my questions.

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The battle last night went great! My players just pulled out a victory against a larger force. I represented the besieged fort on the map in the “field” section and put a garrison unit of archers in there whose doctrine was to never leave the fort undefended, with a tradition to always fire at the enemies closest to the fort.

I have another volley of questions that have come up since I last posted:

  1. When a unit breaks from a failed Steel test, say from receiving a cavalry charge, does that damage their army’s disposition? The way I ruled it yesterday was that there’s no disposition loss on breaking but they still have to pay 1 dispo if they want to inspire that unit to stay and fight.

  2. If a combat lasts for more than one round, do bonuses from e.g. Push or Hold orders persist into the next round, or do you compare strengths as though the locked units had no orders?

  3. Can units move through other friendly units? I could see justifications for ruling this either way.

  4. What is the Steel Ob when an enraged unit catches their fleeing enemies? Page 88 just says “If overtaken, test Steel to massacre the unit.” But units don’t have hesitation so I’m not sure what that Ob should be.

  5. How do a unit’s Health/Steel/Soldiering/Seamanship increase? I only see rules on pg 88 for increasing engagement skills.

  6. Do unit commanders still help with the command roll after their unit has broken and fled?

I also had a couple things I was curious about that stood out to me in the rules:

  1. Are crossbow units supposed to be weaker than archers? Pg 60 talks about how they’re highly sought after but mechanically they have the same stat line as archers, except archers get +1D to Disperse whereas crossbows don’t.

  2. Should anything special happen if a war captain’s unit breaks and flees? Fictionally, I would think that would cause the entire army to dissolve, right? I would be tempted to require a difficult Command test for someone to take control of the situation at that point.

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Hi Tyler,
I’m relieved and delighted to hear that the battle went well.

  1. I know it’s funky, but units aren’t equivalent to dispo in these rules. So a broken unit is out of the battle, but their breaking doesn’t subtract dispo. You have it right that you need to inspire them to stay in the fight and that is what costs.

  2. Units continue to attempt the last order given to them. And you can’t give units locked in combat a new order.

  3. No. Units cannot move through friendlies.

  4. Hm. Aren’t the obstacles for Enraged units on page 83?

  5. Good question! Use the Other Exponent rule on page 108. So as Unit Experience increases, one of the other exponents increases as well.

  6. An attached commander in a unit that breaks is also broken.

  7. It’s a small difference, but crossbows and archers are functionally equivalent in war.

  8. War is a dangerous game. Commanders were killed or broken with an alarming frequency. Such a disaster dispirits an army. No Command tests are possible once the war captain quits the field. Most units will continue on their last orders. Vets, Elites and Immortals will keep their wits and try to win with the best tactics they can muster.


Tell us more about your battle, Tyler!
What were the player’s forces?
What was the final disposition? What were the battle results?

  1. Page 81 in my book has obstacles for a unit to resist becoming enraged. My reading was that once they’re enraged, then they test Health to catch the enemies, and test Steel again to actually massacre. It seemed weird to test Steel twice so close together though.
    Pg 81: “Victorious units who survived the engagement bloodied or broken without fleeing or retreating may become enraged. If these units witness defeated enemy units fleeing or retreating, they must pass a Steel test or become enraged. The obstacle to resist such madness is 1 plus the following modifiers… Enraged units will massacre captives, pursue and massacre fleeing units or loot and pillage–in that order of preference.”
    Pg 88: “Test Health versus Health to pursue a destroyed or fleeing unit. If overtaken, test Steel to massacre the unit.”

I really like your answers to 6 and 8. I would love to see that spelled out more explicitly in a future version of the Anthology!

Our current campaign is loosely based on the Night’s Watch from GoT. This fortress of the Watch, Winter’s Redoubt, was surrounded by a force of steppe warriors from beyond the frontier. My players had been scouting it out previously and had gotten a relief force together but their numbers were still below those of the besiegers, so they decided to try an ambush. They failed the rolls to get their army into position in secret, so the enemy had time to prepare for them, though I was probably a little too kind and still gave them the bonus dice to the disposition roll for having units concealed by cover.

The players had 2 units of light infantry–the “Vanguard of Flame” (D: We’ll be remembered in the songs for our great deeds! T: Always be the first to charge into battle), and the “Bloody Vultures” (D: Nothing is worth dying for. T: Never leave loot lying around.)–along with 1 unit of medium cavalry (“Andronikos’ Lancers” D: We have the finest steeds in the Watch, we’ll always prioritize our horses. T: Always face the enemy head-on.) and the garrison archers that I mentioned previously.

They were going up against a force of 4 light infantry units and 2 mounted archer units. At the start of the battle, the players rolled hardly any successes on their Command roll so they charged in with Andronikos’ Lancers (their war captain’s unit) on the right, which was closest to the fort, and the only place where the enemy’s units weren’t protected by a series of trenches. The Lancers fought one round of combat and lost, but were inspired, and spent most of the rest of the battle deadlocked between their Strength + the archers’ volley against the enemy light infantry + volleys from one of the mounted archer units.

At this point the players have 5/8 dispo against the enemy’s 7/7 and they look like they’re going to lose the Lancers as soon as an approaching 2nd enemy light infantry gets near. Feeling confident, the steppe warriors charged forward with the remaining part of their army, abandoning their defenses. Only to be met on the left by the Vanguard of Flame and the Bloody Vultures who routed the 2nd mounted archers and then met the other 2 light infantry units in the middle of the field. The players needed 4 successes on 5 dice to win that clash and they pulled it off! All of this reduced the enemy’s dispo to 1, just as those last light infantry were reaching the Lancers. The Lancers were down 2 Strength but succeeded in the exploitation roll and turned the tables, ending the battle.

In the end, they relieved the fort with only about half of the enemies remaining to escape. It could have gone very differently though if they hadn’t won that one roll in the infantry combat.

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That is an excellent tale! Congrats to the victors!

Were the PCs involved? Were they the war captain? The commanders? Heroes?

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Also, I can’t quite parse this statement. Can you expand on it for me?

Two of the PCs were attached to units in the battle while a third convalesced from a nasty arrow wound back at camp. They’re too low of a rank in the watch right now for it to really make sense for them to lead an army, so instead my players collectively took on the role of Andronikos, the war captain. The unit commanders were other NPCs that they are familiar with.

At one point Dymion, one of the PCs, tried to break a deadlock by challenging an opposing commander to a duel but he didn’t have the Conspicuous skill so he failed the (doubled) Ob 10 Will test.


My memory is a little fuzzy but as I recall, the Lancers (Str 3) were being supported by a volley from the garrison (Str 2, halved) while fighting 2 light infantry units (Str 2 each) which were supported by a volley from mounted archers (Str 3, halved and rounded up).

That gives the Lancers a total Strength of 4 while their enemies were Strength 6.

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Ah, yup. Perfect!
Sounds like you ran it very well!


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