Mass Battles

I ran a mass battle last week.
Team Bad Wolf was

  • 500 gnolls
  • 500 wolves
  • 40 gnomes (with siege machinery)
  • 50 ogres
  • 100 werewolves

Team Good Guy was

  • 150 guards shooting ranged (crossbowmen)
  • 50 horse-mounted crossbowmen (light cavalry)
  • 200 guards in leather armor (light militia)
  • 100 guards in chainmail with sword and board (heavy militia)
  • 50 commoner slingers
  • 30 bandits (“hunters”)
  • 5 level 3 rangers
  • 15 knights (“paladin 5” — I used knights, gave them lay on hands)
  • 20 nuns (“cleric 5”, but really commoners with the same lay on hands)

Team Good Guy also had the PCs, so multiple moonbeams and fireballs were had. They knew they could nova because they had advantage of the abbey walls, a 3000-refugee strong work-detail, a week of preparation and a source of drinking water.

Needless to say, the heroes won the day, scattering the wolves before them. They had extremely strong terrain advantages, overall stronger forces, and several spellcasters.
The game play was a lot of fun, but leant on DM fiat more than I’d’ve liked. It was so wide-scale that picturing things became difficult. Spell interactions were tricky, too, especially passive ones; the cleric used Guardian Spirits and I probably let it deal far, far too much damage 🙂

I grouped units by the 50 instead of the 10, and used 100′ hexes but, to keep it all “on map”, kept 1m rounds.
Doing it again, I don’t think that I would group things so coarsely, because it’s just too abstract, but I also don’t think that I’d want to run something this big with all the die rolls.
Even with average damage, wolves trip their targets and get gang up bonuses and I don’t want to roll 20d20 anyway.

The L&L article on mass battles — lost during their site redesign — suggested 10 units to the token, 20′ to the hex, 1m rounds. It also suggests that these deciunits then be grouped in formations, which was something this battle totally missed. I think what I might like to do is roll a single attack for an entire formation which would indicate half of the formation hit. For every 2 by which the formation hit/missed, another half of the remainder hits/misses, to a minimum of another 1 hit/miss until all hit or all miss. Round as seems reasonable.
Example time!
Baddies: a formation of 7-groups-of-10 gnolls led by a gnoll hero-captain
Goodies: a formation of 3-groups-of-10 guards and 2-groups-of-10 archers led by the party cleric and, from the rear, the party wizard.
Because the formation is intended to protect the archers and wizards and is capable of doing so, they have +2 cover against attacks (but everyone has the same cover against them).

The gnolls attack. The 70 gnolls get 7 mass attacks and 7 individual attacks per individual.
The gnolls commit 4 attacks against the guards and 3 attacks against the archers.
First, the guards; if the gnolls hit the guard AC exactly, 2 of them will hit (and, since gnoll attacks deal 5 damage, deal 10 damage to the guards, absorbed by their units with no overkill and,  should they drop any units, trigger the entire formation’s gnollish second attacks). If they beat the AC by 2, 3 will hit (15 damage). By +4, all 4 hit (20 damage). If they miss the AC by onky 2, 1 of them still hits (5 damage). Remember, this is 1d20 roll.
Then, the archers. Remember, they’re in the back rank, so all the ACs are adjusted. On an exact hit, 1 hits (round down; 5 damage. If you wanted to, you could split the difference and call it 7 damage. Just be consistent). +2 get you 2 hits (10 damage), +4 all 3 (15).
Then the gnolls attack the heroes. No need for subdivision, they use 7 attacks against each. If they exactly beat the PC AC, they deal 7/2=4 hits (20 damage). If they hit/miss by +2, they get an additional 7/4=2 (rounded reasonably!) hits either way. If it’s a hit/miss by +4, they get an additional 7/8=1 hits, maxing out 7 hits on a success, or leaving one hit on a miss; a miss by 6 resolves that.
Then the gnoll captain gets an attack in; one mass attack on each unit in the formation and one targeted attack on one hero. His hits or misses are atomic, with no multiplier.

On the players turn, they can return the favor. Their guards make a roll (representing 4 attacks with the same +/-2 representing halves that hit) the archers (3 attacks), and finally the cleric (who will swing at the captain and the gnolls) and the wizard (who casts fireball to similar effect).


All-in-all, the mini-wargame thing was awesome, and I will definitely be using it again.


About lackhand

I was born in 1984 and am still playing games, programming computers, and living in New York City. View all posts by lackhand

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