Announcement: News Blog

February 3rd, 2008

PhilipThis is a blog of the newest ideas for WarSpike, the first step in the development cycle of new game mechanics. On this blog I’ll post the rough drafts and concepts with an aim to solicit initial impressions. Ideas that seem to work, or will work once the weak areas highlighted in feedback have been addressed, will be re-drafted for step 2, as ‘pages’, for the Prototyping section. For an overview of all the steps in the project cycle see: Steps.

If you are new to this project and wish to find out more please start by visit the projects Home page.

Philip Sibbering
Artist & Designer

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Stacked Tests

October 30th, 2012

The idea of ‘stacking tests’ is to make it quick to resolve multiple tests with a single roll of the dice. Each Attribute is overlaid on top of each other, and depending on the values of these Attributes, it’s possible to pass all, fail all, and in some instances pass some of the tests and fail others (giving a compound result). Not only can complimentary skills within an Attribute be stacked, but also skills from Mentality and Action can be stacked, effectively binding the psychology rules into the combat loop. Only a single roll is required to resolve both tests.

For example: A fighter has M:8 and A:6. He’s a little bit on the aggressive side. When making a skilled attack, both Attributes are taken into account. On a roll of;

  • 1-6 – passes both tests – makes a skilled attack
  • 7-8 – fails their Action test, but passes their Mentality test. Aggression takes over and the fighter resorts to an unskilled ‘auto-hit’, leaving themselves vulnerable to a skilled counter such as deflect (parry).
  • 9-10 – fails both tests – does not attack, and will cover up if attacked, or flee if charged.

In the above example a roll of 7-8 results in one test being passed and the other failed. This changes the type of attack the fighter intended, from a skilled attack to an auto-hit, due to their Mentality getting the better of them. This gives a little bit of character to the fighter. The Attribute value can be reversed and produce a different type of fighter.

Example: A fighter has M:6 and A:8. He’s a bit more cautious than the fighter from the previous example, perhaps a little bit under confident, but he’s also better trained. On the roll off;

  • 1-6 – passes both tests – makes a skilled attack.
  • 7-8 – passes their Action test, but fails their Mentality test. This means it’s half-hearted, and has no follow through. He makes the skilled attack, forces the enemy to make an Action Test, but does not follow-up if that enemy fails that test. If the enemy does fail their Action Test, then this cautious fighter gains a bonus to Mentality.
  • 9-10 – fails both tests – does not attack, and will cover-up if attacked, or flee if charged.

In the above example a roll of 7-8 results in the cautious fighter bottling it at the last-minute, they get the reaction they want from the skilled attack, but they pull back unsure if they’re being suckered. Their aggression is not enough to overcome their fears. This is like someone testing the water, and observing their opponent. After enough 7-8 results, where the enemy failed their test, the Mentality may build to the point where they are confident enough to use all their skills.

This needs a bit of work to sort out the various details, it’s a bit RPG at the moment, and has to be properly converted to the Tactical Sphere with the options (the Mentality gain in the second example is not going to work in a massed battle), but I hope it illustrates the idea behind ‘stacked tests’.

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Combat – Basic Rule Set

September 13th, 2011

The idea of the Basic Rule Set is to introduce new players to the game. The Basic Rule Set introduces the fundamentals of the WarSpike system, these being: the paired turn sequence, simultaneous actions, and the basics of Martial Arts (predominately defence) in combat.

In this post I’ll be mainly concentrating the combat side of things, and I’ll start of very simple.

Gang warfare

This is a basic, quick, rule set for unarmed street gangs. It starts of very simple, and once you are familiar with it, there are some ‘basic add-ons’ to expand the rules. Weapons and armour, along with various psychology mods are introduced with these ‘add-ons’. You can add as many of the basic add-ons as you wish. The basic rule set, with all the basic add-ons applied, becomes the ‘Core Rule Set’.

Gang size

When starting out keep things small. Say 10 gangers a side, basic ‘6’ stats on each Attribute (though the only one you need to start is ‘Action’), no mods or gear. Deploy them within 2” of your edge of the table top.

Movement and turn management.

Use the standard turn system found here, and here. I leave these rules out of this post for now, so comments on them can be kept separate.

In the following bit about combat; I’ll use the terms taken from the Turn Sequence for each side, these being the ‘Instigator’ (the one that picks actions first) and ‘Retaliator’ (the one that picks reactions in response to the Instigator’s actions). For the purposes of this post the Instigator gang is the one that has encroached onto another gang’s territory. Once it is determined which gang is the Instigator and which is the Retaliator they’ll remain as such for the rest of the game.


First-strike: The Instigator who moves into (base-to-base) contact with a Retaliator will auto-hit that Retaliator.

Note: Auto-hits are big bombs that mean business, followed up with a flurry of punches (and kicks, head-butts, etc.)

Defence and counter: The Retaliator must make an MA test to defend themselves. Roll 1D10 per contact. For Action: 6; all rolls of 6 or less are successful, all rolls of 7 or more are failures.

  • Succeed (6 or less): they defend themselves, and fight back (remain in play)
  • Fail (7 or more): they are hit and beaten up (remove from play – see below)

All those who failed should be removed from the table top immediately (they leg it!).

Note: this fighting back can be messy, and may be as simple as punching over the attacker, moving about while hitting back, etc. It can involve taking some hits, but these hits are not powerful enough to stop the Retaliator from acting.

Counter-counter: If the Retaliator makes their MA test, then the Instigator must immediately make an MA test to defend themselves, and if successful, strike back. If they fail they are beaten up.

Loop: Keep rolling MA tests until one fails.

Beaten up: It’s not serious, a bloody nose, a kick in the face, a missing tooth, but those who take a beating will then be fearful of the one who gave them the beating. Their survival instincts kick in and the beaten ganger does not want to re-engage in combat and will leave combat (yes, this means they will not help out their mates!).

That’s it!

For now you can leave it at that, and run through a quick fight to get a feel for it. The biggest areas to concentrate on are getting the turn sequence right, pairing up combatants and resolving them quickly, before moving onto the next pair. For now, everything else about combat is ignored.


later I’ll expand this simple basic rule set with some add-ons. These add-ons cover weapons and armour, strength, ganging up (multiple-combatants), and more unarmed combat techniques and abilities.

Using technique add-ons works with the same alternating combat loop, it doesn’t really get any more complicated, instead the add-ons work like ‘trumps’. A new technique will trump certain types of defence or attack, and if the opponent doesn’t have the same technique, then they usually loose. If they do have the same technique then it’s MA tests as normal. It sounds simple (and it is) but it can be scaled up to model some very complex combat techniques and scenarios.

Weapon and armour add-ons work in a similar ‘trump’ like fashion (i.e. the wielder of a weapon with longer reach auto-hits first on base-to-base contact. This will override the usual auto-hit the Instigator gets when moving into base-to-base contact – but only IF the Retaliator has the longer weapon reach).

Strength deals with differences in power, but uses the familiar trump like system to override results.

Ganging up allows 2 or more gangers to attack on enemy at the same time, and has very little impact on the speed of the system (i.e. when 2 against one, the lone fighter has to make two MA tests and has to pass both in order to counter one of their assailants. If either MA test is failed, they there is no counter, and the lone fighter is beaten.)

Psychology, and associated mods, uses the Mentality Stat and effects how a ganger reacts to taking a beating, threats etc. but also deals with intimidation and threat displays etc.

The above will have introduced three Attributes: Mentality, Action, and Stature. The ‘Reason’ Attribute is a bit of a spare wheel at this level, and doesn’t really make an appearance until much later.

Categories: Rules | 6 Comments

Combat – ‘Initiative’

September 10th, 2011

I going to be putting out a ‘simple rules set’, dealing with gangs, which starts to tread on the toes of the Technical Sphere. The games of the Technical Sphere are all about individual combat. This type of game starts of very small, almost RPG or warband scale. The small-scale allows multiple (new) players on both sides. Each player controls a single miniature on the table top known as a PC (Player Character). This allows lots of new players to be introduced to the simple rules all together.

The ‘multiple player on one side’ present a problem as it messes with the current turn management system used in the Tactical Sphere. New rules are needed to sort out turn order. These new rules apply to the whole of the Technical Sphere, so I thought I would separate them out into their own thread for more scrutiny.


Traditionally some form of initiative stat is used in wargames and RPGs. Initiative systems in wargames and RPGs determine the order of actions. WarSpike does not have that. A quick recap;

Tactical Sphere: This sphere of war deals with battles, and each player has a whole army to command. One player is the Instigator, the other the Retaliator.

The Instigator is the army that ‘starts’ the fight, moving into enemy territory, advancing on a defended position (those in defended positions are always Retaliators), or springing an Ambush (Ambushers are always the Instigator).

The Instigator goes first. Armies are made up of units. Units are moved one at a time. The Instigator can choose which order their units move. Each movement of a unit results in the Retaliator reacting to that move with one of their units. The two units (Instigator’s and Retaliator’s) are resolved as a pair (ignoring everything else on the battle field). Once resolved, the Instigator moves onto their next unit, and the whole process repeats. This continues until all units have been moved.

If this does not make sense in this abridged form (I’m still working on the language to get the concepts across as easily as possible) please check the turn sequence on the main WarSpike development blog: Turn Sequence: Basics.

New rules

This is fine for the Tactical Sphere where one player can choose the order. However, in a game where there are several players on a side, and each player controls a single miniature on the table top, the typical system used in the Tactical Sphere no longer functions: as no one player is in charge who can determine the order. If a gang is drilled (like in the military or police) they could elect a leader and move as a unit, but that’s a Tactical Sphere game.

In the simple rules game, which deals with gangs who lack this level of organisation, we need to devise a system to manage individuals and their move order.

Design note: I purposely avoided any form of ‘initiative’ stat/ calculation common in many wargames and RPGs. As the Tactical Sphere does not use it, I did not want to suddenly introduce it within the smaller scale of the Technical Sphere. I also wanted something that is very simple to implement.

Rule: the Instigator closest to a Retaliator acts first.

Fig 1: two opposing sides, each of three men. The group on the left are the Instigators, marked I1, I2, and I3. The group on the right are the Retaliators, marked R1, R2, and R3.

Fig 2: The Instigator closest to any of the Retaliators is I2. I2 becomes ‘active’, and targets R3 (the closest Retaliator).

Fig 3: As R3 is the closest to I2, and is being targeted for an action, it will react. R3 becomes ‘active’ too (reactive). Both I2 and R3 are now active. Once you have a pair of opposing active combatants it is resolved immediately.

Resolution: The action of I2, and reaction of R3, are resolved together. This resolving both action and reaction together is very important, for example: If I2 charges R3, then R3 could react with a counter charge, and they would me in the middle.

Everything else on the table top is ignored, until this is resolved.

Once resolved the Instigator player determines which of his other models are now the closest to a Retaliator.

I2 and R3 are ignored when matching the next pair as they are engaged (later add-ons allow for ganging up, re-tageting, etc. and where things start to get tactical – but all start from this basic rule: closest acts first.)

Well that’s the concept of the WarSpike ‘initiative’ system. There are a lot of add-ons, but this is the heart of it. I plan to do lots of diagrams to show how it works each and every step.

While I’m thinking off add-ons…


Although the (single) Instigator closest to a Retaliator becomes ‘active’, and gets to act first, other Instigators near the active one can join in and ‘follow the leader’. If the active Instigator moves towards the enemy, and any other Instigators close by (within 2” on the table top) may follow.

This allows the (single) active Instigator to ‘lead’ a group of Instigators. This is not real leadership as such, the followers merely ‘piggy back’ on the active Instigators initiative. The ‘leader’ cannot command them as such, and the unit does not have any special manoeuvres it can perform. ‘Following’ does not require a Mentality check.

Note: this behaviour of ‘follow the leader’ is the basis of units.

In order to lead the single miniature has to be upfront, and facing the enemy. All followers pile in behind them, but all followers must be behind the lead (180° rear arc) and within 2”.

Note for future: this leading from the front is vital. High ranking ‘leaders’ in an army do not lead from the front, and instead they hand that role to lower ranking officers. The high-ranking leaders give orders and low-ranking officers carry them out. It is the low-ranking officers that actually lead their men into battle.

In response the Retaliator can do likewise. The single Retaliator closest to the active Instigator becomes active, and all Retaliators within 2” can join in with what the active Retaliator is doing.

All movement of the Retaliator must be directly towards the Instigator. Any contacts between Instigators and Retaliators result in combat. Instigators and Retaliators keep moving towards each other until all are in contact. If all of one side is in combat, and the other side has men free, they can gang up.

Often this can ends up in one massive (rugby) scrum as players pile in the followers to back up their leaders.

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Close Combat – Core Rules

September 1st, 2011

These rules are based on medieval and renaissance fight-books, such as Talhoffer, Mair, etc. I’m trying to capture the essence of these combat systems in-game mechanics. Hopefully to get across the core concepts of real combat in-game form, and impart some of the ethos of martial arts. I imagine this game could be used a teaching aid (if it’s correct – there’s a bit of artistic licence), getting the young up to speed, while also providing the veteran gamer with a ‘realistic’ system. I know ‘realistic’ is a loaded work in wargame and RPG circles. I do not mean the rules are a ‘simulation’, I mean: they express the concepts of combat and how they interact.

I am concerned that my generalisations could be misleading. Some of the terms used, like ‘bind’, cover a lot of techniques. At a later date I wish to divide these out and put them into game mechanics.

Once the core rules are sorted I can then figure out a core ‘flow chart’. On the later ‘advanced’ flow charts (with all the individual techniques) the generalised terms (core) will act as ‘container areas’, so the basic and advanced flow charts share a common structure.

There are some ‘odd’ rules compared to other wargame and RPGs, such as auto-hits, and moving all the skill over to the defensive side of things.


Humans have a very high hit rate with tools and weapons. A fit, able-bodied, man will find it hard to miss a stationary target. Therefore all attacks/ strikes/ thrusts are assumed to fundamentally be ‘auto-hits’.

Example: You pick up a waster (wooden practice sword) and strike a pell (a thick practice post stuck in the ground). You strike it 100 times: the chances are you will hit it 100 times. This works out at 100%.

A miss usually has a reason. If the man is distracted, or the target moves, that is handled separately and overrides the ‘auto-hit’.

Defending yourself is not automatic like hitting. The trick is to time your defence to your opponent’s commitment of strike. This is not easy, judging the real commitment is an art, and requires a lot of training and practice to get right. To pull of this type of defence you have to make an MA test. MA = Martial Arts.

Example: You pick up a waster and strike a human target. Your target moves to avoid the blow, or they may deflect the blow, bind the incoming attack, or simply avoid your strike. All this is down to their ability to time it so they act as soon as you commit yourself. Their success or failure is down to their MA test.

It may seem odd, but once you have committed yourself to a strike, you cannot change it mid-flight. Once you commit; the defender is dealing with a ‘set’ incoming attack, on a set path, and the success of their defence is all down to their ability to deal with it.

Note: This is all relates to a straightforward ‘auto-hit’ attack, it does not take into account feints etc. which are handled separately.

The Basics

All these rules built upon the above premises.

Opening: The Instigator will open with an ‘auto-hit’ strike against the Retaliator. The exception to this rules is when the Retaliator is wielding a longer weapon.

Weapon length: The longer weapon always gets the first (opening) auto-hit. This means the Retaliator will strike first if their weapon in longer than the Instigator’s.

The MA test: The ‘Martial Arts’ test is required to defend yourself from an ‘auto-hit’. The MA test is your Action attribute (+ any modifiers you may have). If you are successful you have defended yourself. If you fail your are hit and removed from play (armour may save you! – see advanced).

Basic defence: There are several types of defence modifier. To use a defence you must have it listed. Usually a warrior will pick the most advanced type of defence they have that is effective for the situation at hand.

Avoidance: This is a basic skill everyone has (if as a child they played ‘add’ and other chase games).

If you move too soon the man can readjust and strike at your new position. The timing to getting out-of-the-way of an incoming ‘auto-hit’ is down to your avoidance abilities.

A successful MA test means you are safely out of the way, but you cannot counter strike as you are out of reach. You can flee, and you will have a head start.

Note: Avoidance does not work when in formation.

Deflect and counter strike: Built on avoidance and adds in deflections, allowing you to stay closer to your target. After a successful MA test you can strike back with a basic ‘auto-hit’.

Attacking a fighter with a longer weapon: If your opponent’s weapon is longer than yours (one size rank higher), you are out of range, and cannot use avoidance, or deflect and counter strike. You require a new modifier called ‘bind’ that will allow you to move in and strike. If you do not have ‘bind’ you are kept as bay (the same way an animal can be kept at bay with a spear).

Bind: You intercept and control your opponent’s weapon. This allows you to stay in contact with their weapon as you make up the distance before striking. Strikes from the bind are less powerful – slices, rakes, thrusts, etc. but will cause serious injury and should disable your opponent. Once disabled they are easy to finish off with the next strike.

Golden rule: disable first then kill. There are many wounds that are mortal but will not disable, such wound will allow your opponent to counter often when you are compromised and overbalanced from landing the mortal wound. Always aim to disable first, to contain them and quickly follow-up to finish them while disabled. Of course some strikes will disable and kill in one blow (cut off their head).

Opponent unable to counter-bind: If you successfully bind, and your opponent does not have the bind modifier listed: their options are limited. They can use Defence 1 as normal (unless in formation), but Defence 2 will not save them. If they are in formation and their maximum is defence 2, they will automatically fail their defensive MA test. This means they will be hit and removed from play (armour and shields may yet save them!).

Counter-bind: If you successfully bind, and your opponent does have the bind skill they can make an MA test as normal to counter-bind. This lock you both in a bind. The first to fail an MA test is removed from play (armour may save the one who fails their MA test).

Spear or Pike ranks vs bind: When a swordsman binds a pike block, he requires a string of MA tests: one MA test for each rank, one after the other. If one fails, he is pushed back.

Set spear/ pike: A stationary set spear, or pike, will defeat charging cavalry. Auto-hit.


Shields: will auto-block any incoming auto-hits, except binds. Binds do not work if the shield-bearer is in formation. The shield auto-block does not require an MA test to use. No roll is required.

Buckler: add a bonus to MA test to defend. Using a Buckler requires an MA test as normal, but it comes with a modifier.

Mail: Proper riveted mail armour is incredibly difficult to cut. It effective turns a hewing stroke into a blunt force trauma, and allows the wearer to ignore all slices, slashes, and rakes. It is also very hard to penetrate with a trusting attack.

All strikes from the bind are stopped by mail armour.

Auto-hits are very powerful and will impart blunt force trauma. This will stop the target from fighting, and while suffering from the impact (reflex defence), they are easy to finish with a power blow.


The half-sword technique (grabbing the blade with the left hand to shorten the weapon) is ideal for closing down an opponent. It can also deliver an accurate and powerful thrust aimed at the weapn point in armour.

Half-swording works with ‘binding’. The idea is to make the sword a very short-range weapon, almost a mini quarter staff, and move in. The chances are your opponent will use the full length of their weapon to gain the auto-hit, but with a successful MA test you can move in on them.

You can deliver a double-handed thrust with the point of the sword from the bind. This is a powerful attack and an exception to the usual rule that all attacks from the bind are weak. This double-handed thrust can penetrate mail armour, but not metal plates. However the increased accuracy means you can target the mail areas of a plate harness, and hence avoid the plates (effectively ignoring the ‘plate’ in plate armour).


Once both combatants successful bind, either may choose to grappling. This is either grappling-at-the-sword, or hand grapples. The usual MA tests is made to defend yourself, and the tests alternate between the pair until one fails. The one who fails an MA test is put into a lock, thrown, or stabbed.

Locks: To maintain a lock you have to be equal to, or stronger than your opponent. If you suspect you are not strong enough to hold the lock, you can disengage if your opponent fails their MA test.

Throw and stab: If you choose to throw, and are equal or greater strength, your opponent is now prone. While throwing your opponent you can draw a dagger. Make an MA test and if successful you stab your opponent, usually in a vulnerable place that can avoid armour.

Edit: Temporary removal of cavalry rules while I (and Guy) hunt down some more info:


This bit isn’t completed yet, I included it as an outline of what is coming up.

Cavalry armed with a lance can charge a unit, strike down those in the front rank (auto-hit), and plough into the formation trampling defenders under foot. A horse is a big powerful animal and can apply a lot of force.

If the cavalry charge a unit with set spears the horses are going to be severely damaged, or killed, and will come crashing down, with the rider, who is then vulnerable. However, the front rank are probably going to take a hit, and be injured, and that means a Mentality test is required. If the unit holds, the cavalry with probably halt, or one may choose to test.

With multiple ranks of pike, the impact of the horse collision is absorbed over multiple ranks, and the horse will not get through the ranks of pike. Cavalry will not change multiple ranks of pike head on, and seek to attack from the side and rear, if for no other reason that to slow the pike block’s advance and mess with their enemies plans.

Categories: Rules | 4 Comments

Combat – Zweihänder vs Pike

August 27th, 2011

This article is a reworking of pike combat. Pike combat has been a bit of a tricky one to sort out due to my preconceptions. It’s not like regular skilled combat. I have classified pike formations as ‘mobile fortifications’ (obstacle) – I see the ‘skill’ in using the pike as maintaining formation and presenting a mass of points toward the enemy. The defence is in the structure not in the skill of the individual pikeman to defend through binds, parries, etc. The concept of Pike = ‘mobile fortifications’ ties in with the other concept Shield = ‘mobile cover’.

Pikes are unwieldy, and while they can be used in single combat (with enough space), they are restricted when in a block formation. The only rank that can do any kind of defence work is the front rank, but even they are hindered by all the other pikes from deep ranks getting in the way, and they cannot move about.

The second and deeper ranks have limited view, and cannot really move their pike about in defence.

The core concept of the pike block is to present an impassible obstacle, a mass of pike points so dense that it is hard to move through. Cavalry cannot move through pike, but highly skilled swordsman can. Sword and shield has a chance, but the best is the Zweihänder (a very long 2-Handed sword) which can catch a long of pike is the bind.

Zweihänder vs Pike

The basics of taking on pike is very similar to the basic prototype rules except it starts out with an MA test instead of an auto-hit. In the following an attacker (Zweihänder = 2-Handed sword) takes on a multi-rank pike formation.

Note: Those who wield Zweihänder (Landsknecht) are highly skilled ‘Doppelsöldner’ (double pay).

A pike formation is made up of a number of ranks, and the Zweihänders must overcome each rank before they can attack the pikemen.

  1. Zweihänders – first rank: The Zweihänders seek to bind a pike in the first rank with an MA test.
    > Each roll over the Zweihänders MA is a failure to bind and they back off (repelled). They have to wait until the next turn to reattempt this.
    > Each roll equal to or under the Zweihänders MA is a strong bind and can move in; on to the next rank. The Pikeman does not get the opportunity to defend themselves – the defence is in the number of pike ranks presented.
    > Go to step 2 .
  2. Zweihänders – second and subsequent ranks: Having pushed past the first ranks of points the Zweihänders seek to bind a pike in the second, and subsequent, ranks with an MA test. Each rank requires an MA test.
    > Each roll over the Zweihänders MA is a failure to bind and they back off (repelled). They have to back off completely. They have to wait until the next turn to reattempt from rank one.
    > Each roll equal to or under the Zweihänders MA is a strong bind and can move in: on to the next rank.
    > Repeat step 2 for each rank.
    > When there are no more ranks, move on to step 3.
  3. Get stuck in: When the last rank is defeated, all the Zweihänders who made it past all the ranks can now attack the pikemen direct. Pike are useless this close, and have to draw secondary weapons. This is resolved as a Zweihänder vs 1-H weapon combat loop.

To summarise, you need a string of successful MA tests, one for each rank, to overcome a pike block.

Example: 10 Zweihänders attack a pike block of 200 pike, with 20 men in the front rank. The pike block has long pikes and presents 4 ranks for pike points toward the Zweihänders. Each rank of points must be overcome in order before the Zweihänders can attack the pikemen directly. The Zweihänders make an MA test for their opening binds, the Zweihänders have MA:8, and the Player rolls 9 successes! The Player then rolls the 9 dice for the second rank and get 6 successes. Then he rolls 6 dice for the third rank and gets 4 successes. For the last rank he rolls 4 dice, and gets 3 successes. 3 Zweihänders have managed to bind and hack their way through the pike points and now attack the pikemen direct. The pike block is compromised. Next turn the Zweihänders start hacking away at the pikemen, the pikemen will draw secondary 1-H weapons to defend themselves.

So to get an idea of speed: Roll 10 dice, 9 hits. Roll 9 dice, 6 hits. Roll 6 dice, 4 hits. Roll 4 dice, 3 hits and the pike block is compromised.

It simply a string of MA tests. The pike are too unwieldy to defend directly against the Zweihänders, and instead rely on their numbers to make a defensive structure.

A compromised pike block has to make a Mentality check or break. If the pike block breaks then the Zweihänders can hack down many pikemen as they try to flee, made easier as the block opens up allowing hewing strikes to. If the pike block holds, the pikemen engaged in close combat with the Zweihänders may triumph (if they know how to bind and fight close). If a pikeman dies the Zweihänders will open up space, killing, barging about, and generally causing mayhem.

Pike vs Zweihänder

Pike can’t really attack Zweihänder (or other formations) in the usual sense. A Pike block can advance on a Zweihänder unit and force them to give ground or engage. If the Zweihänder engage and fail: they will have to give ground. This allows the pike block to push enemy units back. If an enemy unit breaks, or is more than one rank and fails to get through the pike points, then new rules for the pike block to ‘steamroller’ the enemy kick in (I haven’t written them up yet).

Categories: Concepts, Rules | No Comments

Attributes – removing ‘ARTS’

August 16th, 2011

I’m thinking of removing the names from the modifier groups. These being Attitudes, Repertoire, Tenets, and Status, which formed the acronym ‘ARTS’. The names do not really match all the types of modifiers that can go into these groups, and there feels like a bit long-winded when explaining things (i.e. Attributes like ‘Mentality’ have a modifier group, and the modifier group for Mentality is called ‘Attitudes’, when it’s easier to say Mentality modifier group and have done with it.)

By removing the names, it should make it clearer. The modifiers will be listed directly under the Attribute. No modifier group name to get in the way. Therefore ‘Attitudes’, the current modifier group name of Mentality, will instead be referred to as the ‘Mentality modifier group’, with the individual modifiers referred to as a ‘Mentality modifier’. It makes it easier to understand as the modifiers came across as ‘self explanatory’.

At the moment there are problems squeezing in certain modifiers like ‘body type’ (somatotype etc.), that can have many modifiers, and affect other modifiers. Body type modifier, like ‘stocky’ does not sound like a ‘Status’. The same can be said for some of the modifiers of other Attributes: language, is not really a Tenet of Reason, and sharp senses cannot really be class as part of the Repertoire of Action. By removing the names for the Modifier Groups it allows more flexibility for the types of modifiers that can be applied. It opens the door for traits, quirks, and other types of modifier – all stored under the attribute.

The body type modifier is set, pretty much like Stature itself, and does not get in the way of other trained modifiers. A stocky build gives you +1 to Strength for your Stature (so a stocky 6′ man has the strength of a 7′ man), but it does not interfere with strength training, it’s an additional bonus to any trained modifiers (so a average build 6′ man trains with weights and gains +1, but his stock build training partner ends up with +2, +1 for being stocky, and +1 for the training). Being stocky also gives bonuses in grappling, as the extra muscle on shorter leavers give an advantage.

Ripping bits out of a system that already has very few ‘stats’ may seem odd, but these modifiers allow for a lot of variety, and I think the system will be clearer without. I did like the ‘ARTS’ acronym when combined with the Attribute acronym (MARS ARTS), all very clever in a self congratulating type of way 😛 but I think it went too far, and more importantly it did not fulfil the design goal (which was an easy to remember, characterful name, for the modifier groups).

Their removal will make character sheet a lot neater and intuitive.


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Attributes – simple complexity

August 15th, 2011

This article introduces some of the thought processes behind Attributes and modifiers, and is targeted more to the Technical Sphere and for possible use in an RPG. I’m thinking about how to phase this concept, and what can be cut out in a quick start rule set.


One of the radical (stupid/ crazy/ wtf???) aspects of WarSpike is lumping together all physical abilities in the Action attribute (the command and control system of the mind over the body). This includes everything that uses muscles, from gymnastics to fine manual dexterity, right down to facial expressions. It also includes the five senses and their sensitivity; which provides feedback, allowing us to adjust our movements to events as they unfold.

All the variability is moved over into the modifier group Repertoire. Included within Repertoire are all the skills and variables that modify actions, along with traits and other special abilities that enhance (or harm) the Action attribute.

This allows you to make the character as complex or as simple as you wish. You could leave Action as it is, without any modifiers in Repertoire, and use a single value to resolve virtually anything physical the ‘average’ man could do. Nice and simple. On the other hand you may enjoy more complex games like D&D or Rolemaster and feel a strong need to fill Repertoire with all kinds of modifiers.

For example: In many traditional RPGs the fine manipulation of small objects is down to ‘Dexterity’, a specific testable statistic along with associated skills. In WarSpike the Dexterity stat is moved to Action and becomes a modifier. The Dexterity modifier can have sub-modifiers (the same as skills), allowing a PC to be defined to what ever level of detail the Player desires.

This is not too controversial, but other stats get moved over to Action such as ‘Charisma’. I think many may scratch their head for a second and think: WTF???

Communication: In many games communication is often handled by a stat called ‘Charisma’, or something similar. A specific statistic used to test against when social interaction is call for. In WarSpike this stat is moved over to Action, and is a modifier.

This means that Charisma is under the same Attribute as Agility, Combat, and other physical skills. The reasoning behind this is a quirk of WarSpike’s set-up. In essence the ability to communicate effectively is down to well-timed facial expressions and body language appropriate to the culture you are in, correct pronunciation, observation of reactions, ability to listen, mirroring, etc. which is all down to muscle control moderated by the senses, and hence ‘Action’. However, Action does not work in isolation it is ‘backed up’ by Stature, or Reason. In the case of communication the back up Attribute is Reason.

Within the modifiers group of Reason you’ll find ‘language’ and all sub-sets, but it also includes stuff like ‘culture’. Knowing a language allows you to communicate complex ideas, it also allow you to understand what is said, but it also ‘backs up’ your ability to use the more complex communication skills. Without good communication skills of Action, a PC will be perceived as a monotone bore droning on about stuff no one cares about, who is completely oblivious that everyone in earshot is agitated, and doesn’t take the hint to shut up (:P). With a high communication skills of Action the PC can inject some personality, embellish their story, to make even the dullest of subjects come alive.

Learning curve

Not everyone is familiar with RPGs, and if WarSpike is their first introduction to the hobby, I want the learning curve to be as low as possible. To this aim, I wish to delay when the modifiers are introduced.

New Players can start simple and work their way up to more complexity should they wish it. Once the players have a grasp of the core mechanics they can then delve into modifiers. This allows the modifiers to be fed to the gaming group at a rate they can easily absorb.

The ‘simple’ PCs without any modifiers are impossibly average at all common skills (universal to all) and lack any of the specific background or occupation skills. Once the Players understand how things work, they can pick an occupation and start to access higher rules.

Seasoned veterans of RPGs can jump in at the deep end; pick an occupation and work up a far more detailed PC, with back story, loads of modifiers etc. before they sit down to play.


This system also make NPC generation very simple, and relative to what they are used for in the scenario. Quick kill ‘mooks’ in a dungeon crawl can be summed up with the Attributes alone, and you probably do not need all the Attributes. If they are going to fight no matter what you can dump Mentality, the chances are Reason is not going to matter, and only Action and Stature are going to play a part (along with gear).

More complex NPCs can have occupations and the GM can simply use the occupation mods ‘as is’. While is may be a good idea to records the mods of pre-defined NPCs in their stat block, along with any extra stuff, for NPC the GM invents ‘as needed’ they can simply reference the occupation. As an average man is ‘6’ (60) in all Attributes, it’s very easy to figure out what this NPC’s abilities are.

It might be an idea to include an example NPC of each occupation, so the players can see what they are getting, and as a resource for the GM.

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Combat – unit conflict overview

August 14th, 2011

This article takes the ‘core rules’ and extrapolates them onto the battlefield. It is a summary overview of what happens when armed units clash, and the effect of their weapons on that conflict. I’m attempting to match the outcome of resolving combat with these rules with historical information.

All the ‘core rules’ from the highly detailed ‘Technical Sphere’ (single combat/ duels) are summarised into a set of rules for the ‘Tactical Sphere’ (resolving massed battles). Think of the Tactical Sphere rules as a generalisation of the Technical Sphere rules.

Now that’s out of a the way, I present a few examples of combat between units and how use of the rules result in situations that are similar to historical accounts of clashes between units. Hopefully this will get across the concept of how the core rules inform the results of massed combat.

Examples of clashes

These examples are quick ‘overviews’ – they do not reference all the rules of combat – much is swept under the carpet! The examples are intended to illustrate specific parts of combat.

All examples blow are unit formations. The example title list their combat gear. So ‘1-H Sword’ is a whole unit armed with one-handed swords and no other ‘combat’ gear or armour. For the purposes of these examples all units in conflict are of a similar size, say 20 men on each side.

1-H : one-handed
2-H : two-handed
F=D : Failure = dead
S=C : Success = counter
Longsword : warsword, bastard sword, hand-and-a-half sword. 1-H or 2-H depending on technique.

1-H sword attacks 1-H sword

Attacker = charge in for an auto-hit
Defender = MA test to null auto-hit and counter. Failure = dead. Success = counter (F=D, S=C)
Attacker = MA test to null counter (F=D, S=C)
Defender = MA test to null counter (F=D, S=C)
Pair are in a death spiral loop.

1-H sword + shield attacks 1-H sword + shield

Attacker = charger for an auto-hit.
Defender = auto-block, followed by auto-counter. (S=C)
Attacker = MA test to null auto-counter and counter. (F=D, S=C)
Defender = MA test to null auto-counter and counter. (F=D, S=C)
Shield has advantage, but ends up in death spiral and 1-H attacker will half-sword.
Possible bonus for MA test, or reduction in hit area similar to armour?

Longsword attacks Longsword

It’s the same mechanism as 1-H sword.
Pair end up in a death spiral loop.

Longsword attacks 1-H sword + shield.

Attacker = charges in for an auto-hit.
Defender = auto-block ineffective – MA test to pro-actively defend with shield. (F=D, S=C)
Attacker = MA test to null counter. (F=D, S=C)
Defender = MA test to null counter. (F=D, S=C)
Pair are in a death spiral loop. Ends up the same as 1-H sword vs 1-H sword.

1-H sword + shield attacks Longsword.

Attacker = charges in, but Longsword is has greater range so the tables are turned.
Defender (Longsword) = attacks first with auto-hit.
Attacker = auto-block ineffective. MA test to counter. (F=D, S=C)
Defender = MA test to counter.
Pair are in a death spiral loop.

Pike attacks Pike (equal length)

Attacker = advances for an auto-hit.
Defender = auto-binds the incoming pike, cannot counter due to unwieldiness and entanglement.
Attacker = auto-bind to tries and counter, but cannot counter due to unwieldiness and entanglement.
Pair are in a stalemate loop. The ‘pike push’ rules to resolve, similar mechanics to the ‘shield wall’ clash.

The list can go on and on, for all weapons and weapon combinations, and then armour etc.


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Combat – Defence Progression

August 13th, 2011

Forward: This is another article about a combat element I am currently pondering. This deals with the various levels of defence. It looks at the core of defence, developed from base principles extracted from Talhoffer’s fight book, to form a solid foundation to build upon later.

Defence proficiencies

Everyone starts out with basic defence skills, learnt while playing as children, the art of evasion. This is born of base instincts to run and chase, and are important for the young to evade predators. In later life, as the basic evasion ability develops a child can be trained. Building on what they have learnt in play. With training more advanced defence options come to the fore; that give the skilled combatant a tremendous advantage. This advantage does not come from raw speed or power, but in their approach to combat and their actions born of that approach. All this training will be recorded the under ‘Repertoire’ the modifier group for ‘Action’.

(note: for those unfamiliar with WarSpike’s way of doing things: ‘experience’ is separate from training and skill, and is recorded under the Mentality modifier group: ‘Attitudes’. Experience is used to reinforce skills, keeping the person focused on the task in hand)


Basic defence is to stand your ground and move back, and preferable sideways, when attacked. Watching the attack and hoping to make a counter attack if your opponent over-balances. This is like basic knife fighter (as it very hard to parry with a knife!)

The basics of this type of combat can be summed up with ‘dodge’. But it relies on ‘big bomb’ attacks coming in at you, where your opponent is making up a lot of distance to strike.

Another type of defence at this level is the ‘quick charge’ from very short-range. This is done as the attacker raises their weapon to strike with a full power hewing blow. A quick-witted defender could steam them and grapple – but such a move is risky if the attacker is skilled and retains balance. I would say that usually this is mistake on the part of the attacker where range has been misjudged, or the mêlée is confusing and the opportunity presents itself to the attacker and they just go with it.


Next up is basic defensive work, but here the deflection are often combined with the dodge to get out-of-the-way. Here the defence allows you to remain closer, and therefore better able to counter strike.

This can be handled with ‘parry’ or ‘deflection’. This is a more advanced type of attack and can catch out an attacking opponent who over-commits.

Advanced Training

The last type of defence is binding. This allows you to defend yourself and to control your opponent’s weapon. If your opponent does not have binding techniques then they are at a serious disadvantage as you can move in to finish them off and they can do little to stop you.

This type of combat can be summed up with ‘binds’.

These three ‘levels’ of proficiency are used as the basis of the game mechanics.

Game Mechanics

The following is an general concept of the core mechanics of  these proficiencies work. It does not delve into all the aspects of combat. Some areas like ‘damage’ are glossed over for now. What I am looking at is the basic structure on which I can build.


An MA test is required to jump back out-of-the-way (and perhaps move a little sideways!). Failure means your jumped back too far (or moved too soon!). A success means you are still close enough to take a swipe at your attacker before they re-balance. Think ‘bull fighting’ and it gives a much bigger, and easier to see, example of what the dodge basically is. Generally the dodge is designed to keep you alive and get you out of harms way first, and attack is secondary.

Is it possible to actually fail at dodging and get hit? Yes. If you are unhealthy, immobile, or the attacker is skilled and feints an attack and quickly follows up.

Most able-bodied fighters have an Action value of 6, the human average, and dodging is well-developed so uses the 6 value (60% in the Technical Sphere). To fail at a dodge to the point you get hit you have to roll double your stat value which is impossible for a value of 6 (it would work out as a 12 or more on 1D10). However for those who did not play as children, or have underdeveloped dodge skills, such that their value for dodge is 4 or less, it then becomes possible to fail at dodging (value 4 would double up to 8, and it’s possible to roll over 8 with 1D10). For the purposes of this article we’ll ignore this for now, and the other complications such as speed enhancements etc. via Stature agility bonuses.

A dodge is not automatically successful if used to evade a skilled attack. A skilled attack is one that is based on an initial MA test when opening rather than the usual ‘full on’ auto-hit type of attack. This skilled attack is often a ‘feint’ (mechanically skilled attack as handled in the same way but the specifics of what is actually done varies with the situation).

Feint concept: Use deception to compromise an opponent’s defence. Make an MA test to fake an attack, to draw your opponents attention to the fake attack, then quickly change and strike while their guard is temporally compromised by their erroneous response. A successful MA test means the feint is convincing. A failure means the feint is treated as a regular auto-attack (which could be bad against a skilled opponent). Feints allow you to catch dodgers flat-footed, and to draw a skilled opponent’s defence away from your target to reveal an opening.

Feints and dodging.

A successful MA test for feint fools the dodger.

The dodger misreads the signs, and they may be hit. If the dodger fails their dodge roll they are struck! They do not ‘jump back too far’, they actually get hit this time. If the dodger succeeds in their dodge roll they get away by the skin of their teeth. This is close, and while the dodger can stay close to counter, this close shave may convince most to leg it instead (as they have dodged they can run and disengage from combat).

A failed skilled attack MA test means the dodger judges it correctly and gets the usual dodge roll handled in the usual way (and if successful they may come back in for a counter of their own!)


An MA test is required. If you fail you will be hit! If you pass you will defend yourself and make an automatic counter that cannot be dodged! The only way to stop this type of attack is to use deflects too.


An MA test is required. If you fail you will be hit! (or you may simply deflect? Too powerful?). A successful test means you bind your opponent, controlling their blade, from which you can ‘strike from the bind’. The only way to stop a strike from the bind is to use binding or be wearing mail armour. If an opponent does not having binding techniques they are in serious trouble.

Notes: A person without binding techniques may consider wearing mail armour as a defence to make up for their lack of skill. However this is a false security. When facing a skilled opponent who can (and will) bind, this unskilled fellow is in trouble. The unskilled fighter who is bound will automatically fail their defensive MA test. They do not roll an MA test. This failure will allow the binder to push the unskilled fighter away from the bind and set up an automatic ‘unstoppable’ strike. This would result in the unskilled fighter being seriously injured. Mail armour is only useful for those will skills, taking on other’s will skills.

Notes: At a higher level, or more details play of the Technical Sphere, a feint could be stacked with Mentality (Attitude) to ‘sell’ the attack and mess with the targets head. It would be possible to pull of the MA test and fail at the Mentality test. This would allow the target to see through your attack, nit because it was poorly executed, but they ‘knew’ you were going to fake it. At this level your ability to lie and hide your expressions plays an important part.

Note: children could be good at dodging but they have limited range (being small) so they have to make up more distance if they wanted to strike back, which in turn is a disadvantage and make it hard to dodge and stay close. In fact it makes it so hard that an athletic adult should catch a child without any real problem (unless not concentrating or paying full attention). In addition a child is small and could count as a smaller target (stature wise – Stature 5). This should allow for street urchins in fantasy games to escape adults, but not be a dodging ninja and take out adults in hand to hand combat. I’m thinking Arabian adventures.

Notes: Sleep spells and status ailments will work against someone who can dodge, allowing you to catch them even though you do not have the feint ability.

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