Siege and Mass combat

I’ve been digging and reading a lot around here on mass combat rules and siege ideas. None of them seems clear or complete. in other words i’m not inspired by what i’ve read and i’m still lost. How do you those type of situations or what can you suggest to help a fellow newbie…?

The Mass combat page in AdBu (p:338) is short and rather vague…I dont get it. And theres none, to my understanding, in BWG.

I’m currently thinking about an hack where I would try to adapt Firefight from BE…the whole unit and intent idea seems great but I feel like it can be tricky to do so, it’ll need playtesting for sure…

What ya’ll think6?


There’s no canon way of handling sieges and mass combat in BW, because those situations vary in importance from game to game. Is the seige a background element that serves as a backdrop for the action? Then there’s no need to represent it mechanically. Is laying seige to a fortress merely a step in your plan to get revenge on the petty lord who murdered your sister? Then it’s a static test, possibly in a greater series of linked tests. Is who wins or loses a particular battle important but uncertain? Versus Command, Strategy or Tactics tests. Do you really want to zoom in on particular specific actions that the players are taking in a larger battle? R&C or Fight.

Good points, but yes we wanna play trought the conflict with all the units and everything…I like how you broke it down thought itll help clarify a few things! It’s a huge climactic event involving many factions, taking over the capital of the world we play in.

Hmm…There are a few ways to handle it I think. Many systems have problems with this type of mechanic, unless it was designed to deal with it specifically. However, BW seems like it could do mass combat pretty effectively.I would set up a series of goals to be resolved via the State your Intent rule…basically you lay out the battlefield somewhat like this:

“The Orcish horde is gathering at the Main Gate. You (players) need to fortify the gate, break their ranks, and destroy their seige weapons.”

Thats three tasks. Linked tests could be done to accomplish that, with a Bloody Versus tossed in for the combat (to keep it simple).

If you want a full blown combat then use Fight!, but keep in mind that other combatants are in the Fray, both good and bad. To keep these secondary to the Characters, I would do a simple Test to determine how those conflicts go (or Narrate based on the success or failures of the Characters…if their combat goes well, then the allied troops rally and fend off the current wave. If the combat does NOT go well, then their unit breaks and retreats with losses).

If you want to have the units represented Mechanically, then burn up a simplified soldier character, and use his stats to represent the ENTIRE unit. Similarly, you need a basic soldier for the enemy. Then treat the entire unit as that single character…you can even break down conflicts as Fights with one Soldier vs another, and if the representative soldier falls, he represents the entire unit, so the unit similarly falls.

The way of managing mass combat generally breaks down to simplifying things down into manageable chunks. Thats it in a nut shell…how you do that in your game really depends on how you want it to feel and how you want to represent it.

The problem with mass combat rules in BW is that BW is all about characters, their beliefs, and what they do. Mass combat is too big for the PCs. There are no rules for the same reason there are no rules for national economies; the scale is wrong. You could make another conflict system like Fight or R&C for mass combat, but I’d argue that the feel is off. The participants are no longer PCs; their stats are not going to be PC stats. You’re making a wargame that runs on BW-like rules but isn’t actually BW.

What you do care about is the PCs’ role in mass combat, and that means tests. Find intents of the proper scope and roll them. A unit has been routed? Command or Oratory to rally them and bring them back into the fray. Archers out of arrows? Logistics (or maybe Scavenging) to resupply. Want to create and seize an opportunity to flank? That’s Tactics. Fortifications or Masonry to shore up battlements.

When I’ve run battles, there’s been a mix of Versus/Bloody Versus/Fight to have combat, especially when moving around the fray. Interspersed with that are both GM intrusions and player-driven gambits.

Have you seen Judd’s battle hack here?

Not my cup of tea but Range and Cover for the archers and siege machines, Bloody Versus for battles that do not directly involve players in combat (command roles) Fight! as soon as a player character is directly threatened, Breaking Things for breaching fortifications. Lots of Wises Tests for intell on the opposition and their way of fighting, fortifications, the area you are fighting in, supply lines (ect). Only play out the parts of the battle that focus on the player characters and do not neglect their BITs. All the rest becomes back drop and should be narrated as much as possible, giving concideration to player intent and task success.