I'm hoping that I shall in time receive feedback from people who have tried these scenarios, and who will suggest variants and improvements. While I play using my own rules, I see no reason why they would not work with other systems.

The Palantir Question Pike Break-through Village Slaughter The Fall of Troy Peace Keeping Raid on Ancient Egypt Divided Loyalties Brain Harvest

The Palantir Question

This is a multi-player game, ideally for five players. It is set in the world of Tolkien's Middle-Earth, but could be adapted for other fantasy settings.

Set up

The table is rectangular, and not too large. In 25mm scale, it shouldn't be over 6' by 4'. The forces of The West will enter from one short end of the table. About a fifth of the way in from the other end of the table is a formation of standing stones, or other piece of terrain marking a sacred spot - perhaps a raised dais or altar. The rest of the table has a scattering of wilderness terrain on it.

The Forces

On one side, three players control high elves, men, and dwarves respectively. On the other, two players (or one or three if you prefer) control a force of goblins and orcs. The three forces of The West should be equal in strength. The high elves, men, and dwarves should each have about sixteen figures, all infantry. I gave each a leader, a champion, some archers (or crossbowmen for the dwarves), and one or two types of melee specialist. Most of their troops were a bit above average, but nothing special.

The forces of The East I used were orcs for one player and goblins for the other. The orcs had about twenty figures, including a leader, a champion, "retinue" (about as good as their foes), and axemen, halberdiers and archers of quality slightly below average, but still decent.

The goblin player had a leader (who for fairness also had magical powers, but perhaps one magic user on the evil side is better), and forty points to spend on his forces, where archers, spearmen and swordsmen were one point, and warg (dire wolf) riders were two points. None of the goblins was tough, and they tended to drop like flies in close melee. The archers had decent skill with their bows, and they were fast on their feet. The warg riders were pretty decent, and they and the swordsmen were also armed with darts.

Brief for Peoples of The West.

The Ring has been destroyed, and Sauron is apparently no longer co-ordinating the forces of Mordor and The East. Middle-Earth is still not at peace, however. Even now The Shire is being scourged, and the massive armies of orcs and goblins that lived and prospered from destruction are still on the rampage. To the south, war has broken out between Gondor and men once allied to Sauron. Wild men of the hills are fighting in Rohan. Has the spirit of Sauron been destroyed? No one really knows.

There has been another council of the Free Peoples, and opinions varied sharply as to what priorities men, elves and dwarves should have. You are part of a faction that sees it as vital that the Palantir be destroyed. These were the seeing stones that Sauron was able to use to corrupt the mind of Sauroman. They were lost in the Second Age, and not all recovered. Sauron must have had at least one, and with this perhaps he or allies of his could return to power. The Council did not rule in your favour, but you and your allies have taken action without this sanction, though you would have preferred to have had the Council's consent and backing. The wood elves had declared that they would oppose any proposal that involved dealing with the Palantir, and your convictions have prompted swift action.

Two weeks ago you and your allies struck in a well-planned series of raids, and you captured the three known Palantir in allied Western hands. You then journeyed far to the northeast, to the Plateau of Innach Thune. There you know of a place where they can be destroyed. The workings of the Palantir are not properly understood, but it is known that if any is destroyed, this can be detected by all of the others, and at the moment of destruction foul abominations from the realm of darkness can appear through the rent in the world that is the broken Palantir. In this one place in Innach Thune, however, there lies a formation of stones long ago aligned with the Palantir. From research in the libraries of Minas Tirith, you have learned that the Palantir can be destroyed there and the rents in the world contained.

During the journey, though all were told never to look at the Palantir, one dwarf looked, and discovered that he could with one Palantir detect the near presence of the other two. The stones were intended for long-distance communication, and seem to behave differently when brought close together. The honest and resolute dwarf announced his discovery and this was shared with all.

The stones are heavy, and take two men to lift and move. They are hidden in barrels and crates, which make them easier to carry, and shield the carriers from their baleful influence. The temptation to look into the stones is palpable, and five of the allied force were driven mad by this desire and sent away. Destroying them is a matter of putting them on something hard within the sacred standing stones, incanting some words, and them thwacking them with something like a hammer. They can be destroyed outside the formation of sacred stones, and this would be preferable to their falling into enemy hands, but it is safer to break them within the sacred place.

To get to the plateau has been a terrific journey. Crossing marshes and climbing steep cliffs has robbed you of all your cavalry, and now the three forces, all that could be supplied for journey, have arrived, tired and hungry, only to find that enemies have seen their path and arrived on the plateau ahead of them. You must get to the far end of the table and destroy as many of the Palantir seeing-stones as you can.

Since the enemy is clearly intent on robbing you of your precious cargo, you may use a ruse to deceive him. Though each of the three forces started with one stone, none fully trusting the other two (this partly explains why all forces are of equal strength), it is possible for you to distribute the stones between you as you wish. The enemy has long watched you from afar carrying the stones as you have been, so knows what to look for. You could, however, choose to put two Palantir in one container, and have others carry a container weighted with rubble for effect as a decoy.

Brief for the players of orcs and goblins

The Ring has been destroyed, and Sauron is apparently no longer co-ordinating the forces of Mordor and The East. Middle-Earth is still not at peace, however. Even now The Shire is being scourged, and the massive armies of orcs and goblins that lived and prospered from destruction are still on the rampage. To the south, war has broken out between Gondor and men once allied to Sauron. Wild men of the hills are fighting in Rohan. Has the spirit of Sauron been destroyed? No one really knows.

You were once servants of Sauron. Having no corporeal form, he needed those like you to do much of his work. You had one of the Palantir, the seeing stones that were lost in the Second Age. You know that these stones can not just communicate with one another, but can also be used to find one another. The nearer one stone is to another, the easier it is to see in one where the other is. If you can get your Palantir within 20" of another Palantir, you can detect its presence by rolling the number of inches you are away from it or greater on 1d20.

Your forces have been observing a band of enemy troops journeying to the northeast. They have seen and reported that the enemy band is carrying one or more Palantir in heavy containers. The enemy groups have been falling out among themselves, but still seem to have a unity of purpose. They have come to the Plateau of Innach Thune by a hard route, and harassment from your forces, together with their internal strife and the adverse terrain have much weakened their numbers. You have been able to arrive there before them, and can make your attempt to grab the Palantir which will bring you untold power. Once you have a Palantir in your possession, carry it off the table and away to safety (or use it to detect others just as above).

Your leader is able to cast a spell that makes anyone in the area of effect (one foot diameter circle) move as if in bad terrain, and unable to dodge. The plants in the area grab at the feet of anyone there, and the earth parts around their feet trapping their feet in holes. Troops entering the area of effect after the spell is cast are unaffected. You need line of sight to the centre of the area to cast the spell, and the chance of success is 1d20 to beat the number of inches to the centre. You must be stationary for the whole turn in which you cast the spell. To keep the spell in effect, make the roll each second turn at a cumulative +2 (so first roll after success = number of inches +2 to beat).

Extra rules

To carry a Palantir takes two figures, and this slows them down by one inch. While carrying a Palantir, these figures cannot fight, but they are allowed to drop the Palantir and draw weapons. To smash a Palantir takes two figures, and two actions both of which must succeed. The first is to place the stone and chant the words; the second is to smash it while the chant is still in effect. Each has a one in two (50%) chance of success, and if either fails the first must be tried again. The Palantir can be smashed outside the sacred area, and this can be done in a single action with a one in three (33%) chance of success, but the side effect is that an abomination from another realm is summoned on the spot. I had a figure for a "plague elemental" standing by in case any player tried this, and the stats I had for it made it pretty nasty. All wounds inflicted by it were fatal.

To make things a little more interesting, I gave the dwarves a few specialist masons who had massive hammers and who had a better than normal chance of smashing a Palantir. The snag was that the dwarves were also the slowest movers.

Your rules should ideally have some mechanism by which unengaged figures away from the fray can move faster. Perhaps you might allow double moves to figures whose moves never take them within a certain distance of enemy fighters. Perhaps you might use an initiative system that makes such things possible.


The three forces of The West should do what they can to confuse the enemy as to their intentions and which crates/barrels have the Palantir in. Note that the forces of The East are not told in their brief that their foes are intent on destroying the seeing stones, nor that they have three of them. Also note that the forces of The West do not know about their enemy's ability to detect Palantir stones, and the first time their enemy casts the spell that slows them down should be a surprise.

The forces of the West are likely to cluster around their stones in order to protect them from marauding orcs and fleet-footed goblins. However, this renders them vulnerable to the magic spell of the orcish leader. If they then split up into three groups, each group might be slowed down by the spell and attacked by darting goblins who can't be caught, but while this is going on, the other two western forces could be speeding towards the sacred site. However, if the good guys leave one of their three races to be destroyed piecemeal, the enemy will probably capture a Palantir (but perhaps an empty decoy crate).

The evil forces should realise that they have very different forces with very different strengths. The goblins are excellent for slowing down the enemy, and harassing him, and for exploiting the fact that an enemy cannot move quickly (so they could use bows and darts from very close range against foes with magically hampered feet, and gang up on stragglers), but very poor in close combat. They should co-operate with their forces rather than just divide up the table between them and each take on the enemy forces in one area. This didn't happen in play-test, though, because players seldom think through strategy as rationally as that. In play-test, the goblin player on one side of the table rushed into combat in the naive assumption that a fairly balanced scenario meant that his forces must be capable of doing this and winning. His archers and warg riders did some damage, but he took horrendous casualties.

Victory Conditions

  • Evil side ends up with 4 Palantir: crushing defeat for The West.
  • Evil side ends up with 3 Palantir: defeat for The West.
  • Evil side ends up with 2 Palantir: draw.
  • Evil side ends up with 1 Palantir: victory for The West.
  • Evil side ends up with no Palantir: major victory for The West.
  • Good player loses over three-quarters of his force: that player scores one grade of result worse.

The game will end when all Palantir are either off-table or destroyed. You may also be using morale rules that might precipitate a faster end to the game, but so desperate is the situation, that a fight to the death, with no entire forces running away, will also work.

Pike block break-through

I wrote rules for pikes and wanted to try them out, so I came up with this one.

One side has a pike block. I used a three-rank deep block five men wide (15 figures) of guys in decent armour (or else shooting them would be too easy). It also has a small escorting force, with a leader, five decent swordsmen, and a scattering (perhaps fifteen) of poor skirmishing troops. It has to get to the other side of the table.

The opposing side has a shieldwall of decent spearmen (about seven of them) which it places on the other side of the table directly in front of the pike block's objective. This shieldwall will not crumble the instant the pikes hit it, but the odds are that it will be pushed back after a few rounds of combat. The opposing force also has fifteen or so good troops, including a few archers, and troops useful in melee. If it can strip the pike block of its escort, then the pike block itself should be easy meat.

There are two versions of this scenario.

Version One:

There are three exits of the far side end of the table. One is in the centre, and this is where the pikes will go. It is the entrance to a narrow gorge, defended by the opposing spearmen. Near the corners, either side, are two more exits, through which allies of the pike block might flee. The pike block side wins if half its troops exit the far end of the board. Many could do this just by rushing to the corners, but that would leave the pike block very exposed. If you play this version, the pike block should make up almost but not quite half the numbers of the whole side, so that abandoning the pike block to its fate is a strategy that might just work, but only if the rest of the force suffers very few casualties.

Coming up for a rationale for this will depend on your setting. In a fantasy world, you could say that the pike-using side is returning to its own territory, and the pikes are large orcs who must go through the Gorge of Glath, while the escorting goblins and lesser creatures could scuttle down into the entrances of the Chasms of Quarg. A non-fantasy setting might be where the troops are following orders to play their part in a larger action, and are trying to fight their way back into their town. The pikes have been ordered to advance along the road and clear a path to one of the main gates, while the commander of the escorting force has half a mind to save his force by getting his men through a couple of little sally ports in the town walls. The townsfolk will let them in if they can get to the sally ports (small entrances/exits in fortifications), and it would be suicide for any forces to follow them inside.

Version Two:

There is an objective on one edge of the table, which is small and immobile. If any of the pike-using side can get to this objective, then it has won. I played this game in 25mm scale across a table four foot across and this was plenty of space. The terrain involved a major obstacle directly in front of the pike block, which started in the centre of one side. The pike block therefore started by having either to cross the obstacle and become broken up by it, and dangerously vulnerable, or else manoeuvre around the obstacle which is not easy for pikes to do. The terrain left a clear path for the pikes to the objective, and involved many fences and woods and such-like either side, for defenders to hide archers behind, and to rush out from and harass the pike block or its escort.

The two obvious ways to win for the pike-player are to smash through to the objective with the pikes, or to get one lightly equipped fighter to slip away from the fight, while everyone else is busy dealing with the pikes, and run round the back to the objective. Thus the defender has two worries: the pike block, and the stragglers around it.

When I played this one, it was a fantasy setting and the objective was a huge grille set in the ground, held shut with a bolt. One fighter could throw the bolt and release some ghastly monster held captive underground and by this win the game. The objective could instead be a powder magazine that could be detonated by one trooper, or a holy relic that could be desecrated/rescued.

Keeping the pike block secure should be a problem for the attacker, and the attacker should not be able to afford to lose the block. If the block breaks and runs, the morale effect of this should be very significant, and the attacker's force should withdraw if it suffers just a few more losses than this. If your rules do not make a pike block vulnerable if attacked from all sides, then you will have to invent some rules to make this true. If your rules do not take morale into account, then you should simply decide on a number of casualties that the attacker can afford to take, above which his men will withdraw.

The game ends when the objective is reached or when the attacker's forces withdraw. Once broken, the pikes will not reform. You could have the defender fight to the last (so make the objective very important), or if you prefer rule that the defender too might run for it after so many losses.

Village Attack

The bad guys are attacking the village. In the village, there are innocent civilians, and two important people, whom the attackers particularly want dead. I played this as a dark-age fantasy game, with human defenders and goblin attackers, but you could very easily change this setting for another that suits your models and taste. If you can keep the details of the scenario a secret from one of the players, then this should be the attacker. The defender should be the "host" of the game, and be familiar with the details.

Plan view of example table
Plan view of an example table. It looks peaceful now, but any minute a horde of villainous types will attack. The watchtower/beacon is just out of shot on the hill at the top right.

Set up

The village is in the centre of the table. This consists of a cluster of buildings, with cover and obstacles of whatever sorts you can find. I used wood-piles, well-heads, goat-byres, beehives, chicken houses, haystacks, a cart, a kiln, and that sort of thing. You don't want a town, but instead a small village or perhaps extended farmstead with a mix of homes and other buildings (grain-stores, weaving huts, pigsties etc.). An important difference between the two kinds of building is that that the dwellings will have fires burning in them somewhere, whereas the other buildings will not. In the ancient world, lighting fires was difficult, and people habitually had fires burning in kitchens and in central hearths all the time, for heating and lighting.

Around the village is more terrain. I used fields, hedges, trees, fences, and I put out a fair few farm animals. In one corner of the table is a tower on a hill. In this, a beacon stands ready. This will summon reinforcements if lit.

Another view of example table
You mark my words: any minute now this place will be a scene of havoc.

The defender deploys his civilians. I used twelve civilian figures, that included the two VIPs (local lord and lady?), and a mix of men women and children, young and old. I also had a sheep dog, but I do not want to get bogged down in trivialities. The civilians all had the same statistics. For added scenario interest, these are deployed all outdoors, and not in a great huddle, but instead scattered about, going about their daily business. They may place them in the village itself, rather than all exposed near the table edges. However, the defender must place at least one outside the village limits, perhaps chopping wood in the nearby wood. The attacker ideally should not know this rule. The defender can use it to tempt the attacker to deploy near this one figure, and so just where the defender wants him.

The defender

The defender then deploys his defending troops. The threat of attack was known about, but not the timing of it. The defender has just a few men, as there are many villages to defend. The trick with games like this is to keep them small, or else they take too long. I gave my defenders just three archers, four spearmen, and four cavalrymen. These were all decent troops, but nothing unusually good. No defending troops may deploy in the quarter of the table containing the tower. This may seem odd, but it is to make the scenario work. It can be rationalised as representing the fact that the attackers have been hiding and watching for the right moment to attack, and have noticed that the warrior manning the tower has just nipped back to the village to answer a call of nature.


The attacker then decides where to come on. I was using a command and initiative system when playing my games, and this meant that the attacker was encouraged to arrive in a small number of groups rather than in one huge ring of individuals. If your rules allow every figure to move every turn, then this should not spoil the scenario, so long as the villagers were well distributed. Otherwise, they could all group together very quickly and hide away in one building, and you wouldn't get lots of little panicky fights, but instead one big slogging match which isn't nearly as much fun, and makes little use of the whole table.

Another view of example table
Can't be long now. Brace yourself for hideous carnage.

My attackers were a rabble of twenty goblins and their very competent leader. The attackers should substantially out-number the defenders, but should be of lower quality. Their leader should be pretty able, because such a rabble would only come to such a battle if it had a strong unifying and motivating force. The attacker's brief is to kill all the civilians in the village, and do as much damage as possible. The attacking force has been given descriptions of the VIPs and so will know them when it sees them. About a third to a half of the attackers should be primarily missile-users.

Lighting the beacon

Neither side is carrying fire. Each must send a man into a building to get it (and perhaps only the defender will know which buildings have fire in them). A man is assumed to find in a building some easy way of carrying fire, such as a burning brand. The man can then go to the beacon and light it. Lighting it requires the man to get to the beacon and plunge the burning brand into it. On his next turn, he rolls to see if the beacon is alight, which it is half the time if he is busy fanning the flames and tending to it, but only a quarter of the time if he is busy being attacked. The roll is made every turn thereafter until it lights. The attacking force does not know about the beacon, and may not act to destroy it until a man has been seen carrying fire to it. Once fully alight, it cannot be destroyed. While it sputters into life, it can be pulled apart half the time if those doing the job are undisturbed, or (just like lighting it) a quarter of the time if there is a fight going on next to the beacon.

Once the beacon is lit, the reinforcements are on the way. They will not arrive for at least four defender's turns. The next defender's turn, they arrive if a 20 is rolled on 1d20. The next, if a nineteen is rolled, then eighteen and so on until they do in fact arrive. The force arriving is assumed to be overwhelming, and at this point all attackers flee and the game ends.

Victory Points

The points are allotted as follows:

  • Per attacker dead: one point to the defender.
  • Attacking leader dead: four points to the defender.
  • Per civilian dead: two points to the attacker.
  • Per VIP dead: six points to the attacker.
  • Per house set on fire: one point to the attacker.
  • Per four animals killed: one point to the attacker.
  • Per defending soldier dead: no points to either side.

House burning

Two possibilities of deadlock exist. One is that the beacon is destroyed and cannot be lit, and so the reinforcements cannot be summoned and the game cannot be brought to a swift end. The other is that the civilians hole-up in the buildings and are too well defended to be killed by bow and sword. The same solution can break these deadlocks. A building can be set on fire. Though a beacon is a better thing for summoning the King's men, a burning house in a village will be investigated, so the defenders could set light to one of their own buildings for this purpose. Also, the attackers could flush out or burn the civilians who shelter in a building.

You will need rules for setting light to buildings. Roll 1d20 and try to roll 17 or more per full turn trying to do the job, and while not involved in melee. Add two to your roll per extra man helping and also carrying fire. Once it is alight, roll 1d20 and it will spread into a 1" diameter fire on a roll of 13+ (add one per man fanning the flames, and subtract one per man beating the flames from the same side of the wall as it was started, or per three from the other side (so if the building is set alight from the outside, and six people inside it are trying to beat out the flames, subtract just 2)). Every turn it will grow 1" in diameter (half an inch radius) on the building if the same roll is made. On rolls of 4 or less, it will shrink by the same amount, and will go out if it reaches a diameter of nought.

Anyone in a burning building must leave it or move to a part of it that isn't on fire. Once half the building is alight, there is a one in four chance every turn for each person inside that they will suffer a wound.

A fire three inches in diameter will attract the reinforcements. Once a fire has reached this size, the reinforcements will arrive, but not for four turns, and after that the 1d20 roll only gets easier by one point every two defender's turns, instead of every defender's turn.


In the first play-test, a party of men went out to light the beacon and were set upon by a gang of attackers. One man carrying a flaming brand broke away from the melee and ran for the tower. One attacker gave chase and caught him and delayed him enough for a second to arrive, and at the end of this melee one attacker remained standing and the beacon was unlit. Exciting stuff.

In the second play-test, all the attackers came on in one place, and then stood around shooting at what they could see. This allowed the defenders to charge in with their cavalry and cause a lot of damage, while the villagers took cover. Defender win.

Wider view of example table
It's just too damn quiet. The fiends will be laying into these poor innocent civilians in two shakes of a lamb's tail. Bound to be.

In the third play-test, the attacking leader kept out of the fight and did little good. One man ran for the beacon and lit it unhindered. Meanwhile, the defending force killed a few attackers, but suffered itself as badly, and the attackers broke into the main long-house and killed a VIP. After the reinforcements had arrived and the dust settled, it was a narrow points-victory to the attacker.

The Fall of Troy

This is a public participation game that I designed some years ago, and have played through many times now. It is the game of the most famous part of the myths of Troy: the men coming out of the wooden horse and bringing about the doom of the City of Ilium.* Ideally you will have two referees to speed up play and make everything seem more pacey and involving, though one is adequate. With one referee and four players I played through a game in an hour and a half, and I know that the game has gone faster than this. When played slowly with friends and a few drinks, it lasted over half of an evening's gaming session. Part of the beauty of it is that the referees can control the length of the game and cut it satisfyingly short.

I don't expect anyone to stage this game exactly as I did, but I hope that what you see below might serve as a model to inspire other games.

Table set up at Durham wargames show
Table set up at Durham Wargames Show. Down one side of the table you can see six character cards and the figures for those characters, inviting future passers-by to pick them up and have a go.

There are twelve heroes in the horse** (four major, four minor, four middling), and the game can be played by any number of players up to twelve, though four and six are recommended. If there are four players, each controls three heroes; if there are six players, each controls two. Twelve is a convenient number and you should be able to accommodate an awkward number of players, by some means or another. Here are some suggested fairly equitable ways of dividing up the heroes:

  • Three players: (A) two majors, two minors, (B and C) one major hero, two heroes, and one minor hero.
  • Four players: one major hero, one hero, and one minor hero each.
  • Five players: (A and B) one hero, two minor heroes, (C and D) one major hero, one hero, (E) two major heroes. Give C and D the first two men out of the horse.
  • Six players: (A, B, C, D) one major hero, one minor hero, (D and E) two heroes.

N.B. The player who plays Diomedes should not also play Sthenelus, and the player who plays Neoptolemus should play neither Odysseus nor Menelaus. This is to do with their individual character missions.

For other numbers of players, you will have to improvise. Since it is a fun participation game, people shouldn't mind too much if their heroes aren't quite as mighty as other players'. If more players want to join in after a game starts, you could invite players to hand over control of a hero or two accordingly.

I wrote out the individual stats on file cards, each card having the stats and notes for one hero character, and a picture of the figure representing that character. This proved very useful and effective. You of course may be using your own rules, but the cards as I had them appear at the bottom of this page. You might provide your own statistics, but keep the same notes.

Set up

The table represents the outer wall of Troy, with the Skaean gate in the middle of it, and from this, a street running to the megaron (palace). There is plenty of space around all the table edge for rolling dice, putting down character cards, leaning elbows down and all the other things that people in participation games like to do. You don't want anything near the edge where it might get knocked off.

You will need a fair few model buildings to stage the game. I used a large megaron, with a big porch in front, three doors leading to a central room, and another door leading to the back room. Fourteen houses lined the street, and next to the gate I placed a fortified tower. The tower overhangs the gate, and can be entered from the battlements on the walls, or from ground level through a door. A flight of steps also leads up to the battlements from the ground outside.

I placed a scattering of sleeping blind-drunk Trojans (casualty figures with no blood on them) and items in the streets and on the roof-tops. These included ovens, baskets, urns, pots, querns, bundles of firewood, shields, spears etc. These are decorative, but can also be used as players see fit (most likely for throwing and dropping off rooftops).

There are a few trees, mainly for decoration. One large oak tree near the Skaean gate is mentioned by Homer several times, and so was honoured by a model.

Also decorative are several rollers (made from cocktail sticks with the points chopped off) that were used to move the horse into the city, and a few parked horseless chariots near the gate and on the way from the horse to the megaron. These, though, can be made very useful if the players are clever enough to think of uses by themselves. The chariots are light and easy to wheel by hand, and can be used to make a barricade, and to cover a man's movements from arrows. Heroes by the gate might open the gate, and then make a barricade of chariots while they try to hold the gate. Other heroes might shield themselves from arrows while approaching the megaron using chariots. The rollers make perfect battering rams for bashing open the megaron doors. Don't give the players hints about these possible uses.

Some animals (pure white oxen, and pack camels) are tempting booty.

Brief for the players

There is no need for the players to read this. You can just tell them.

The war has been waged for ten years now. Each side has lost its greatest heroes. The Trojan Hector is dead, and so too is the Achaean Achilles. Ajax has gone mad and killed himself. Paris has been killed and then mutilated by Menelaus. Helen has been made to marry his brother Deiphobus. Now after all this, the Greeks have apparently given up and sailed away.

But wily Odysseus has concocted a plan. He and eleven other Achaean heroes have hidden in a giant wooden horse. This, thanks to a dedication to Athena written on it, and the duplicitous acts of Odysseus's cousin Sinon, has been hauled into the city on rollers. Cassandra, cursed by Apollo with the gift of seeing the future, has seen that the horse is full of warriors, and said so, but has not been believed. The Achaean fleet has departed, but only as far as the isle of Tenedos where it hid. The heroes in the horse have been listening for most of the night to the Trojans celebrating the end of the war. All around the horse there has been drunken revelry. Now, Ilium sleeps and all seems quiet.

Sinon is waiting outside the city and watching the gate. If he sees the gate opened, he will signal to the fleet which has slipped back quietly under cover of darkness, and Agamemnon will lead the Achaean army in through the gate to take control of the city.

Diomedes and Anticlus open the gate.
Diomedes and Anticlus have just thrown the huge bolt of the Skaean gate. Troy now seems doomed.

The winner of the game will be the player who scores the most points. Points can be scored in various ways, some of which are secret. You get points for killing Trojans, capturing women, looting and claiming booty, and fulfilling personal goals mentioned on your character cards. Be careful not to offend the gods.

If you want to try anything like sneaking about quietly, changing weapon, talking to another character, dodging, evading, breaking off combat, or picking up an object, just tell the referee.

The Game

The game starts with the first two Achaeans climbing down from the horse. Do not tell the players what order to appear in. It is better to get them involved by granting the first man on the rope to the player who speaks up first, and to stick to this policy. Two can climb down per turn. After the players' turn, it is the Trojan turn, and the referee moves the figures as he thinks appropriate. At the start of the game, the city has not been alarmed and the Trojans think that they are safe, so the referee should not make figures attack unless the actions of the players prompt this.

Each turn the sequence is:

  1. Trojan Deployment
  2. Achaean turn
  3. Trojan turn
1. Trojan deployment:

Roll 1d6-1d4 (or 1d8-3 if you prefer). The result is a number between 0 and 5 (ignore minus numbers) and is the number of Trojans who deploy. For example, you might roll 5 on the d6 and 2 on the d4 for a total of 3. Look at the deployment chart, and cross off the top three Trojans that have not yet been deployed. Work your way down the chart from the top. I have tried other methods for determining Trojan deployment, and this I found to be the quickest. The chart has columns on it, each representing one building numbered on the map (1-16). The first three Trojans are "J" in building 8, "W" in building 5, and "J" in building 11. Cross these off (so that you don't accidentally deploy them twice) and place down the figures as if they had just wandered out of those buildings.

2. Achaean turn.

The players then each have their turn, and get to react to the Trojan deployment. Don't feel the need to have them take their turns in the same order every time. Such formality can lead to a certain detachment. Better is to get them involved by surprising them with questions like "What is Diomedes doing?" and if a player grabs your attention and tells you what he wants to do, then reward this by seeing to him immediately. The more players are rewarded for getting involved, the more they will get involved, and the faster the game will go.

3. Trojan turn.

Your place as referee is not to kill the players off, but to give them a good game. If the players give a Trojan little reason to suspect anything, then do not play the Trojan as suspicious. The Trojans think that they have just won the war. They will defend themselves if attacked, and if it seems fair and dramatically appropriate, then a Trojan might run into a house to escape a marauding hero, or perhaps to rouse everyone in it into action. The referee should be fairly generous to the players about the behaviour of captured Trojans. They should be played as accepting of their fate, and not trying to escape all the time. A character can quickly tie them up and "claim" them, and then move on.

Deployment Chart

If a player character enters a building, then consult the chart, and look down the column of that building's number, and place in that building all the Trojans in that column. Building 13 is empty and might be a disappointment to a pillaging Achaean hero. Building 4 has six people in it, and might make a hero worried. Some buildings have named characters in them, such as Cassandra who is in building 7. These characters are encountered when player characters enter the buildings, and they do not wander out (unless a referee feels it particularly appropriate). The exceptions are the Lukka heroes Aeneas, Old Iphitus and Pelias who are there to give the heroes some worthy opponents.

I tried putting the chart on this page in HTML code, but it looked awful. Instead, I have made it a file for you to download. You can have it in Word for Windows format (.doc, 126K) or Rich Text Format (.rtf, 399K).

The chart has a simplified map on it to remind you which building is which, and a key telling you which letter on the chart represents what kind of character. Of course, the reality is that you will almost certainly not have the same figures to use as me, and so you will have to do a bit of tweaking of the chart to fit what you have. You will need getting on for this number of figures. In playtest, about three-quarters of the figures typically came into play.

The Trojan Forces

All the stats that the referee needs to have to hand are on this Rich Text File. It prints out on one side of A4 paper, and includes all the stats for both sides, using my system. Note that the character names of Trojan heroes are in italics.

The major heroes are very good, but not so good that they needn't worry at all when up against a few foes at once. The heroes are slightly less good, and the minor heroes slightly less good again, but still good. The Trojan archers, spearmen and javelinmen are all a bit below par. The Lukka are somewhere around average, but not quite as tough. The citizens are all fairly feeble.

To do a perfect copy of my game (which I expect no one to do) you will need: 12 Trojan spearmen, 12 Trojan archers, 12 Trojan javelinmen, 9 Trojan civilian men, 3 Trojan civilian women, 3 Lukka archers, 3 Lukka javelinmen, 3 Lukka swordsmen, and three Lukka heroes (including Aeneas). You will also need figures for Priam (old man - King of Troy), Hekabe (his wife), Deiphobus (his son, an armed warrior), Andromache (his daughter in law and widow of Trojan major hero Hector), Astyanax (his grandson, a small boy, heir to Troy), Cassandra (young woman), Antenor (middle aged man), Pantheus (priest), Helen (woman, either young and beautiful or late middle aged, depending on how literally you want to take the legends). You could also have a decorative figure for Sinon, perhaps hiding behind the oak tree outside the gate, and for Stentor the herald, who might end the game (see below).

The Lukka were sea-peoples allies of the Trojans, under King Sarpendon, and are usually pictured wearing a crown of upward-pointing things that could be feathers or reeds or leather thongs. I painted mine green because I wanted to. No one really knows what colour they all were.

The Megaron Doors

I have mentioned that the rollers can be used as battering rams. This is only necessary if you decide to have the megaron doors barred from the inside, or held shut by Trojans. If the players are having too easy a time of it, and have a few heroes in position to deal with the doors, then place a challenge in their path, and have the doors shut. Otherwise, make them burst them open. It shouldn't be very difficult to do this, or the game might get frustrating. A hero must roll 16 or greater on 1d20 to batter open a megaron door on his own, and he may try once per turn. Heroes using rollers as battering rams can combine their strength this way, so three heroes using a roller would roll 1d20 each and total the result to beat 16. The inner megaron door to the back room is never shut.

Special Characters

All characters in Homer's poems recognise each other on sight, and if a player character in this game sees a named character in the game, then the referee should name that character to the player and explain who they are. No hints should be given as to what their significance is, however.

Cassandra is the beautiful but very strange daughter of Priam. She has the curse of being able to see the future, but never to have any of her predictions believed. She can see her doom and the doom of those around her coming, but no one has paid the slightest bit of notice to her ravings. She is going mad. When she appears, the referee should try to get her to run towards the statue in front of the megaron and cling to it. If anyone tries to capture her after she has clung to the statue, they will find her easy to capture as she does not fight back, but instead just clings on. If they pull her off the statue, the statue tumbles over and breaks, offending the gods. In the Greek myths, the statue was of Athena, and this act greatly offended her, and the consequences were dire.

Pantheus is a priest.
Andromache and Astyanax are Priams's daughter in law and grandson. He is an infant boy, and heir to Troy.
Antenor is an honourable man who did his best in negotiations to keep things peaceable. When Menelaus and Odysseus were in negotiations with the Trojans in Troy, a mob formed wanting to kill them both, but Antenor smuggled the two of them to safety.
Priam is the King of Troy, and father to fifty sons, many now perished. His wife is Hekabe (not the mother of all fifty!), and one of his sons is Deiphobus who has forced Helen to marry him after the death of Paris. In the myth, he was confronted by Menelaus on the night of the destruction of Troy, and slain brutally by him. These three are in the middle room of the megaron.
Helen is or was supposedly the most beautiful woman in the world. She has been portrayed in many different ways by different writers over the millennia. Some show her as innocent victim, others as knowing villainess. Citizens of Troy will not be happy that she has brought this fate upon them, and if Helen is left unprotected, then the locals will throw stones at her (I have played another scenario on the same table, about escorting Helen out of the city). She is placed in what I consider the most obvious place for her: the back room of the megaron.
Stentor, from whom we get the word "stentorian", was the loud-voiced herald, whose voice was as loud as fifty normal men. He is only mentioned once by Homer, and it is not made clear which side he was on. I have put him on the Trojan side for the convenience of this game.

Game End

The game ends under one of two conditions: either the heroes open the gate and Agamemnon turns up with the army, and takes over the situation, or the heroes spend too long in the city without opening the gate, having fun plundering, and the city wakes up and overwhelms them. Twelve men, no matter how heroic, cannot out-fight the entire city.

To open the gate, one man must spend four full turns undisturbed to throw the huge heavy timber beam bolt. Two men can do the same in two turns. Three men get in each others' way. Once open, Agamemnon is on the way. He will arrive after four full turns have passed after the gate is open. The gate may of course have been shut again in the meantime. If so, the arrival of Agamemnon's army rouses the slumbering watchers on the battlements and the game is lost.

If the players do not open the gate, or take ages about it, then the referee can bring the game to a conclusion by introducing Stentor the herald. Stentor sounds the alarm, and the whole city population, recognising this alarm and its importance, wakes up at once. Since there are many buildings of the city not shown on the table, one can imagine that the horde of angry and frightened Trojans would overwhelm even the might of such heroes as the player characters.

When exactly the referee introduces Stentor is largely up to him. If the players are still having fun, then let the game go on a bit, but it is better to cut it short before the pace slackens too much, leaving the players wanting more. Stentor should arrive to punish players who have spent all their time plundering and slaughtering, and haven't done the main thing they came here for: opening the gate. If the players have not opened the gate, and don't look like doing so in the immediate future, and the game has been going on for a while, bring on Stentor.

Victory Points

The points are allotted as follows:

  • Kill Trojan soldier: 2 points.
  • Kill Trojan citizen: 1 point.
  • Capture woman: 4 points.
  • Capture animal: 1 point.
  • Kill Deiphobus or Lukka hero: 6 points.
  • Capture Andromache: 8 points.
  • Kill or capture Astyanax: 4 points.
  • Kill Priam: 4 points.
  • Capture Cassandra: 6 points.
  • Cassandra gets you to pull down statue: -8 points.
  • Kill Pantheus the priest: -3 points.
  • Kill Helen: 6 points.
  • Capture Helen: 15 points.
  • Think of something clever (referees' discretion) such as using chariots as mobile shields or rollers as battering rams: 3 points.
  • If Antenor is killed: -4 points for Odysseus and Menelaus.
  • If Sthenelus dies: -4 points for Diomedes.
  • If Menelaus kills Deiphobus single-handed: 8 points to Menelaus
  • If Diomedes captures or kills a named character and Odysseus doesn't: 4 points for Diomedes.
  • Per figure that Neoptolemus captures: -2 points for Neoptolemus.
  • And the biggie...

  • If the Achaeans do not open the gate and keep it open for Agamemnon to arrive: all players lose all their points!

Points are shared between heroes who do things jointly. I found it easiest to get players to keep a pencil tally on the back of their cards of their points, and tell them about the extra things, like the minus points for killing a priest, at the end of the game.

Note that there are NO points for opening the gate. Someone has to open it, and while he is doing it, he is not gaining glory through slaughter and plunder. If no one does it, Troy does not fall, and the plan fails. Life in Greek myths is not fair, and neither is this game.


Troy usually falls, but about a third of the time in my experience, it doesn't. About one in four heroes dies. Players tend to like going in buildings to find out what's there, because it is a bit like playing lucky dip. Almost no one thinks of using the chariots as mobile shields, nor the rollers as battering rams. Just hacking away with swords is the most popular thing. Attacks on the megaron are surprisingly rare and almost never concerted. The megaron is a bit further away than the houses around the horse, and people are usually too distracted by playing lucky dip in the many houses to go for the palace. So far, in all my playtests, no one has captured Helen. People do quickly get into the spirit of slaughter, though. This is even mildly shocking. So far everyone who has got his hands on poor young innocent Astyanax, has killed him immediately. True, the Achaeans killed him too, but at least they kept him captive for a while before pushing him off the high walls.

Atmospheric shot of Troy
A digital shot of a wargames table, manipulated in the hope of making it seem atmospheric. For really atmospheric shots, you should visit the Trojan War section of my photography pages.

Character cards

Major Achaean hero. King of Sparta, husband of Helen, brother of Agamemnon of the cursed House of Atreides.
W D T S M R Notes
Sword X76 143 7 - -1W versus non-X weapon.
Javelin8 4 4/7/18
Prevent the death of Antenor - he saved you in the past. See that Deiphobus dies horribly - he now claims to be Helen's husband.
Major Achaean hero. King of Ithaka, husband of Penelope, son of Laertes, favourite of Athena.
W D T S M R Notes
Sword X76 143 7 - -1W versus non-X weapon.
Javelin8 4 4/7/18
Prevent the death of Antenor - he saved you in the past.
Major Achaean hero. King of Argos, son of Tydeus.
W D T S M R Notes
Sword X76 143 7 - -1W versus non-X weapon.
Javelin8 4 4/7/18
Make sure that Sthenelus survives - he saved you in battle. Achieve something that your rival Odysseus does not.
Major Achaean hero. Psychopathic son of Achilles, recently arrived from Skyros where he was raised in secret (sometimes dressed as a girl). Grandson of goddess Thetis.
W D T S M R Notes
Sword X76 143 7 - -1W versus non-X weapon.
Javelin8 4 4/7/18
Avenge your father. Glory is battle. Kill as many Trojans of all kinds as possible.
Achaean hero. Son of Andraemon, commander of the Aetolians.
W D T S M R Notes
Sword X85 133 6 - -1W versus non-X weapon.
Bow 105 0 6/18/30May do two per turn of: move, load, shoot.
Achaean hero. Son of Capaneus of the Argives. Saved Diomedes in battle.
W D T S M R Notes
Sword X85 133 6 - -1W versus non-X weapon.
Bow 105 0 6/18/30May do two per turn of: move, load, shoot.
Achaean hero. Son of Panopeus. Greatest boxer of his day. Designer of the wooden horse.
W D T S M R Notes
Sword X85 133 6 - -1W versus non-X weapon.
Bow 105 0 6/18/30May do two per turn of: move, load, shoot.
Achaean hero. Son of the physician Aesculapius of Tricca. Once wounded by Paris and healed.
W D T S M R Notes
Sword X85 133 6 - -1W versus non-X weapon.
Bow 105 0 6/18/30May do two per turn of: move, load, shoot.
May heal one wound. This takes two turns undisturbed.
Minor Achaean hero. Squire of Nestor of Pylos. Son of Ptolemaeus.
W D T S M R Notes
Sword X94 133 6 - -1W versus non-X weapon.
Javelin104 4/7/18
Minor Achaean hero. Virgil (and this game): Achaean in the wooden horse. Homer: Dardanian on the Trojan side who gets killed!
W D T S M R Notes
Sword X94 133 6 - -1W versus non-X weapon.
Javelin104 4/7/18
Minor Achaean hero.
W D T S M R Notes
Sword X94 133 6 - -1W versus non-X weapon.
Javelin104 0 4/7/18
Minor Achaean hero.
W D T S M R Notes
Sword X94 133 6 - -1W versus non-X weapon.
Javelin104 4/7/18


You may notice that the statistics for shields look a little different from my standard rules. They follow the old pattern I used to use (and I still sometimes wonder whether it was better). Instead of adding the shield factor to the enemy's Weapon skill, the numbers are to be added to the Toughness of the characters when the shield is brought into play (not when facing away, obviously). The stat for the Trojan spearmen (5(3)/7) is for their huge tower shields, which count 5 in melee (or 3 if the enemy has closed past the spear), and 7 against missiles. They really were huge shields.

* "Troy" and "Ilium" are used by Homer interchangeably (although there is a theory that they were two different places).

** There is no one authoritative source for who exactly was in the wooden horse. I have used Virgil's Aeneid as my main source, and there is a section in Homer's Odyssey about the incident too. Twelve is a very convenient number.

Peace Keeping

This is a three-player scenario. The table is rectangular, and towards one end (east) are some buildings, perhaps a farmstead. There is plenty of terrain on the table as a whole, and it really could be any setting you want, perhaps even a town. Whether or not someone can see what is going on is important in this scenario, so the terrain should contain a fair amount of sight-blocking things such as hedges and hills.

As with all games where each player is given an individual brief, it is best if they do not know the other players' briefs. The host of the game, who might know all the briefs, should play the peace-keeper (C). It is important that Player A does not know Player B's brief. Since Player A scores points for killing people, the chances that there will be no trouble at all is very slight, but after a lot of manoeuvre, it could be that the trouble consists of just a couple of shots, a scuffle, and some chases and possible arrests. The threat of violence must be countered and reacted to just as much as actual violence.

Since I am specifying no particular setting, the players and their forces will just be known as A, B, and C, but you should replace these with more atmospheric names.

Brief for Player A

You loathe your enemy, B, and wish to kill him and as many of his followers as possible. You know that Player C is going to try to keep the peace, and it would be best if you didn't start the fight when any of C's forces are looking, but this is not very important to you.

You deploy first, anywhere on the table in the eastern half.

You will score 15 points for killing B's leader figure, and 1 point for each of his followers. These are the points if you are seen by any of C's forces doing the deeds. If you can kill B's leader when C isn't able to witness this, then you get 20 points, and 2 points for each of his followers. If B's leader is arrested by the authorities and you are not, you gain 5 points.

Brief for Player B

You have to recover the deeds to your estate (or for a different setting such as sci-fi, something else of similar value), which you have hidden in a building at the far end of the table. You know exactly which building they are in and where inside it they are hidden. No one else should know that they are there, nor that you need to get them urgently, but get them you must. You would rather that you got them yourself, because the fewer people who know about this the better, and you cannot trust all of your own followers to keep their mouths shut.

You have problems, though. Your enemy, A, has come to cause trouble, and is between you and the deeds. Also, the authorities, player C is monitoring the situation, and has a force of armed men to keep the peace. You are on your own land, though, and the authorities have no right to throw you off it, nor to arrest you if you do not commit violence.

You deploy last, entering from the western end of the table.

You get twenty points for picking up the deeds personally, and fifteen if an underling of yours does it for you. For each man you lose, you lose a point, and if you are wounded you lose three points. You lose the game if you die. Also, if you kill an enemy man while none of Player C's forces can see you do this, you score one point. If A's leader is arrested and you are not, you gain 5 points. You total up your score when you leave the table.

Brief for Player C

You represent the local authorities. You are there to keep the peace and to witness any crimes so that prosecutions can be made at a later date. If you are watching, then no one should try anything, but you are familiar with the ways of the locals, and they are quite likely to try and murder each other when your back is turned.

You deploy second, anywhere on the table. Player B will be entering from the western end.

If trouble starts, you must arrest the leaders of the factions and get them off-table. Once you have arrested a man, you are responsible for his safety.

For each man you lose, you lose 2 points, for each wounded, one point. If you are able to keep the peace enough such that no one gets killed, you get 10 points. If a fight does break out and you witness who started it, you get 5 points. If, after trouble starts, you arrest one of the leaders, you get 10 points. If you are able to arrest both leaders, you get 25 points. For each other man arrested whom you witnessed committing a crime, you score 1 point. You score these points as you get the men alive off-table. However, if a leader in your custody is wounded, you lose 5 points, and lose one point for other men wounded.

Pertinent rules

The players A and B must think of themselves as being their leader figures. They can escape arrest by simply leaving the table, but in their absence, their forces will just leave as well. They must be on the table to command their forces. If leader A or B dies, then that player loses regardless of all other results.

A violent crime has been witnessed if any of C's men have line of sight to both killer and victim at the time of the assault. If only one of the two is seen at this moment, then this is less good evidence in court, and will only count half the time (so roll a die to see if this counts as being witnessed by C).

A leader should not be able to lead his men by remote control. If your rules system has no rules for command, then you will need to introduce some, otherwise a player might place his leader hidden behind a hedge in one corner of the table, and micro-manage his minions from there, which is not in the spirit of the game. You could rule that point-scoring events involving the enemy leader (he gets arrested, killed, whatever) are halved if not witnessed by a player's leader figure from within a certain distance (half the width of the table, perhaps), to encourage players to make their leaders part of the action.

Leaders can communicate with each other to offer deals, threats, ultimata etc. so long as they are within line of sight and two-thirds of the table's width or less apart, or out of line of sight and less than four inches apart. The distances are small and shouting will usually do the job.

A leader can freely offer himself for arrest. If Player C has not witnessed his forces committing any crime, no points are lost or scored for this, and he is now under the protection of Player C. Under certain circumstances, this could be a game-winning move.

To arrest a leader against his will, Player C must get at least two men to within arm's reach of him, and then have at least two of his men win their combat with him in the same turn. One man fends off the leader's weapon, while the other(s) grab(s) him.


Player A should have a moderately good leader, and a few decent troops, and a load of poor troops. Total perhaps 20-30 men.

Player B should have a moderately good leader, and fewer men than A, but a greater proportion of them as decent troops. Total perhaps 15-20 men.

Player C should have a very good leader, and a force smaller than both A and B, but made up of better quality troops than both. Total perhaps 10-15 men.


I had to do this scenario, because I had made the buildings. Sometimes it happens that way round.

Someone in my wargame club had a load of the "Tomb King" figures by Citadel. These were fantasy animated skeletons in ancient Egyptian costumes. Since I didn't actually have any Egyptian figures, I recruited him for the game. I would mount a raid on Egypt from the sea using my Mycenaean figures, and he would provide the defenders. Homers's Odyssey has a tale in it of a raid on Egypt mounted by Menelaos. Everything goes wrong in that raid too.

Plan view of example table
The table, photographed just before the figures were added at the game's start.

I don't expect anyone to duplicate this scenario exactly in its every detail. In fact, the scenery could be changed very radically, and the setting changed to one entirely different – perhaps an attack on a railway goods yard in World War Two by Yugoslavian partisans. What matters is the basic concept of the scenario which makes it a good game. I shall continue describing it in terms of a raid by Mycenaeans on Egypt, but in your head you can translate it to some other world.

Basic idea of the scenario

The game is designed for three players. Two players command one ship-load of raiders each, and the third player commands the defenders, and acts as a sort of referee, also controlling villagers etc. The defender deploys hidden. The attacking players are in competition with each other to gain the most loot. One theme of the scenario is the balance between competition and co-operation. The scenario is set up to punish players who fail to co-operate.

On one side of the table is a distraction: a village populated by local civilians. There is loot to be had here, but not great quantities of it. The locals will flee, defend each other, harass raiders by throwing stuff from rooftops, shut themselves in their homes, and such like to entertain the player distracted by them.

In the two far corners of the table, are the rich spoils, hidden in buildings. In my version, the pylon temple had a big pile of treasure in it, collected by the evil undead, and in the roofed temple in the other corner there was a rich tomb, which included a sarcophagus inside which was a mummy which, if destroyed, would destroy the commander of the undead, and free the area from his curse. In a different setting this could be replaced with the self-destruct mechanism for the Bond villain's base, or whatever.

The raiding parties are in competition with each other, but to some degree they should co-operate, because if they don't, they may be defeated piecemeal. On one side of the table (away from the village), the defender deploys most of his forces. These should consist of enough low-quality troops to defeat one of the two raiding parties by swamping it with numbers. Since they are low-quality, many of them will be defeated, which is fun for the attacking player. The player on the other side of the table may allow his rival to be defeated, but if he does, then he is on his own.

Since I used ships as the means of arrival, I could also make them part of the scenario's end. To leave, the raiders must get back on to their ships, and it takes a large proportion of the men in a raiding party to launch a ship. After defeating one raiding party, the defenders may well pursue a fleeing group of raiders back to the ships, and destroy first one and then the other ship, cutting off all the survivors. An alternative to a ship might be a narrow pass, a teleporter, a helicopter, or whatever else suits the setting chosen.

Just before I took this photograph, as I was talking to someone, a passer-by decided to 'straighten' the Nubian tomb in the foreground. Oh well. In Egypt, there were some avenues of sphinxes like this that literally were miles long.

Here we see the distraction: the village. Villagers potter around. There are laden camels and white bulls to steal, men women and children to kill or capture, and jars of olive oil, baskets of bread and the like to loot too. Pots, querns stones, buckets and the like can be thrown down at raiders who are trying to bash in doors or carry off relatives. In fact, as referee I was quite prepared to have the townsfolk be helpful if approached in the right way. They might be glad of warriors who could rid them of the curse of the Tomb Kings. Depicted on-table was just one corner of a much larger town.

To give the raider on the lightly-defended side of the table the illusion that he was behaving in a military manner, I had five skeleton tomb warriors ambush him in a derelict temple. These were quickly defeated. You can also see a dead Egyptian warrior who was included as a clue that the locals were under some alien threat (and therefore might appreciate help rather than be another foe to fight).

In playtest, the ship nearer the village (red) was commanded by two boy players, seen here. They had a fine time looting the village, and rejoiced to see the other player being defeated by great numbers of undead, including the powerful undead leader.

In this shot, the blue ship commander's contingent has already been defeated, and is routing back to its ship. He had spread his men out across his half of the table and then they got charged from the ruined temples either side of the roofed temple of Anubis and Sobek. He might have had warning of this, because early on he found a wounded Egyptian soldier lying on the ground, but before the poor man could make himself understood, javelins were thrown into him and finished him off. The other (red) ship lies almost completely undefended (its leader stayed aboard – for such cowardice he will doubtless not be granted much of a share of the loot).

Out of consideration for my opponents' view of the table, I hid my dice behind a temple.

Plan view of example table
Possibly I should darken the bases of my model palm trees.

In the shot above, you see what happened next. The routed contingent's leader ran straight to the other ship and got on board. His men mostly got on board their own ship, and all the while took more and more casualties from the arrows and spears of their pursuers. By this time they were too few to launch their ship. One tried to set fire to his own ship, but was shot down before he did this. Others jumped overboard and swam for the other ship, and two or three made it.

Meanwhile, the red ship's commanders realised the danger and hastened back to their ship, but despite the urgency, bothered to bring with them stolen animals, captives, and loot, and load these aboard. A thin line of spearmen stood between the advancing undead and the red ship, and these just managed to buy enough time to launch the ship. The first four attempts to launch were failures, and all the time men helping in the launch were being attacked. This delay enabled one man to run all the way back to the ship from the far corner of the table, so he was lucky. The ship eventually cleared the sandy beach and the many wounded men aboard made it out to sea, with others swimming after it, being shot at from the beach by skeletons that would not enter the water. The raid cost far more than it stole.


I was using my fast-play skirmish rules, in which a knight costs 3 points, a soldier 2 points and a peasant 1 point. These are referred to as "quality ratings" or QR.

Each ship had a hero commander (QR3), a hero spearman (QR3), six spearmen (QR2), six archers (QR2), four swordsmen (QR2), and six young javelin men (QR1). Opposing these was a QR4 lord of the undead, and about forty-eight QR1 skeleton followers, including a few with swords or maces, lots of spears, and lots of archers. This was enough to defeat one raiding party, but not two at once. Indeed, since the skeletons were of low quality, a well-led raiding party could have beaten them had it stayed in good formation and fought on good ground. In melee, the skeletons were no match for the Mycenaeans one-for-one, but they had a big advantage in an arrow-fight: I treated them as knights when it came to rolling damage against them, because I envisaged arrows passing harmlessly through their rib-cages most of the time, with just the occasional lucky shot taking off an arm or severing the spine.

The raiding parties were 24 men strong. I ruled that it took 14 men to launch a ship, and that an attempt to launch stood a fifty-fifty chance of success. You could choose to come up with a more sophisticated sliding scale, but I think that 14 out of 24 (between half and two-thirds) was the right proportion. This means that if a contingent breaks (loses all its morale), then it is likely to have a tough time launching.

This was not the most easy game to transport. Here we see it all packed away afterwards. Normally, I get everything in a rucksack and I cycle home. Erm, can anyone give me a lift?

Here we see some of the red ship's men (commanded by the two boy players) making back with two prize white bulls. The most valuable thing they found in a house was a young woman, whom they shot dead in their enthusiastic blood lust. They are young, and they will learn.

If you want to see more of these model temples, you'll find close-ups of them, and text on how they were made here: making model Egyptian temples.

Divided Loyalties

This scenario was originally conceived for a darkest Africa expedition game, with a column of explorers coming across a place with lots of treasures, and a native porter sneaking off to fetch his cousins to intervene in the looting by rival explorers. However, the setting has been changed to a medieval one, which is how I playtested it.

It was playtested as a strange two-player game, even though there are really four "sides" to be commanded. See below for how this was handled. Doubtless it could be adapted for three or four players (see below).


Duke Egbert is a bit of a git. He rules this region but he doesn't treat his men well. He is not the man his father was. He has married a thirteen year-old French girl, who came with a huge dowry, and now he is spending his wealth on extending his already bloated castle, and building summer villas on his estates. He claims that times are hard, but he throws banquets and tournaments whenever her relatives visit. The two players are his captains, and they haven't been paid in a year.

Each of the two captains is an experienced fighter, and has won the respect of the men of the dukedom. Each has come to the same conclusion. Unfortunately, neither has told the other. If they had teamed up, they would have had an easy time of it, perhaps, but instead they both worked in secret, unaware that they were not alone. Each has decided that Egbert needs his faithful troops more than they need him, and that they will teach him a lesson. This is a terrible thing that they plot, and so they do so in secret. Each has spread the word amongst the men that when an opportunity presents itself to get hold of a load of the Duke's booty, that this shall be done. A codeword will be shouted, and then all men loyal to the plot will be expected to follow the orders of the captain shouting that word. As soon as booty is taken, the men will have become brigands.

A life as a brigand can be good in that the men may quickly come by lots of money that they are then free to blow in the taverns of the region, but for a band of brigands to survive any time it must stick together under a competent leader, and have some money to keep it going through the lean times. To persuade a man to become a brigand and effectively to renounce his allegiance to the Duke will take a hefty cash bribe, and neither captain has any money. Therefore the only thing they can bribe the men with is a promised share of the loot to come.

Both players write down in secret a percentage between 10 and 90 inclusive, that is divisible by 5. This is the amount they are promising to share with the men who obey them. The higher the percentage, the more men they will get in the game, but the lower the percentage, the more money they get to keep for themselves. The winner of the game will be the man who leaves the table with the most money that they get to keep for themselves, to put aside and maintain a life without a liege lord.

Table set up

The table is a stocky rectangle, with a road winding through the centre of it lengthways. Either side of the road is rural scenery, with fences, walls, hedges, and open land all right next to the road as well as scattered to the table edge. There are also wheat fields, trees, perhaps some small hills/bumps/crests, and whatever else you might like.

Seven containers are scattered along and just either side of the road, near the centre of the table, and next to these are groups of revolting peasants. The containers are whatever you have representations of: chests, caskets, crates, boxes, sacks, barrels etc. In these, is the Duke's silver. If the peasants are left to themselves, they will run off the table carrying them.


There are four forces. The peasants are one force. These should be a match for about a third of the Duke's men (if they fought in a coordinated fashion). Their motive is to escape with as much money as they can get away with. Given a choice between life and money, they will choose life. A player could control the peasants, and be given his own victory conditions, but also the peasants could also be a non-player force there just to make things interesting. All the peasants are footmen.

The second force is Oswald's. Oswald is not a bad man, but he is a bit of a plonker. When it comes to the crunch, both of the player captains know that the men would prefer to follow a competent, seasoned, brave, and charismatic man like them, rather than follow Oswald. A few of the men will stay loyal to Oswald, perhaps because the word from the captains hadn't reached them, and they have no idea what's going on, or perhaps just out of simple loyalty to Oswald or the Duke. If Oswald dies, these men will withdraw from the table. Until then, they will obey Oswald and try to keep order, and stop everyone else from running off with the Duke's coin.

The other two forces are those that will follow the player captains. At the start of the game, neither player knows how big these forces are. Each captain is mounted on a good horse, and has a loyal sergeant who is also mounted. There should not be many other mounted men. The soldiers in the column are all competent men at arms, with decent equipment, and some are well equipped knights. There are spearmen, archers, swordsmen etc. When the fighting starts, it will be necessary to be able to distinguish which men belong to which commander. In the playtest, uniformed men were mixed in with non-uniformed, and when the rolls were made to decide loyalty, one player got all the uniformed figures, which were swapped with equivalent non-uniformed men if necessary. Men loyal to Oswald were marked with a blue hoop.


The column of Duke Egbert's men enters, about three abreast, on the road from one end of the table. This is the situation when the captains catch sight of the situation ahead.

Carrying treasure

Two men are needed to carry treasure, or one mounted man who cannot then be used to engage the enemy. Carrying treasure slows figures down by an agreed significant amount (it rather depends on how fast they move normally in your system). Knocking off a couple of inches seems about right, or even halving speed (but that might be a bit harsh). If combat results force a man to retreat by any amount, he must drop the treasure where he was. A dropped treasure can be picked up for no movement cost.

Turn sequence

Exactly what turn sequence you use will depend on whether or not you are using a clever initiative system, or whether you are just going to use a simple I-go-you-go sequence.

At the start of the game, the column is commanded by Oswald. Each time it comes to the turn of the column, a die is rolled, and if the result is even, one captain gets to control Oswald, and if odd, the other captain does. Whoever controls Oswald, the other player controls the peasants. At the start of the game, therefore, there are effectively only two "sides".

At some point, one of the players will yell his codeword. As soon as he does, he takes his turn. If he waits too long, some of Oswald's men or his rival's men will grab loot. If he says his codeword too early, then the other player may then sit back and watch him attack the peasants all on his own, while also being attacked by Oswald's men. If one and only one player has called his codeword, then the other player gets to command all other forces: his own, Oswald's, and the peasants.

In order to win the game, a player will have to call out his code word and start grabbing loot, so it is very likely that both players will hold back for long. Once both players are controlling their own loyal forces, again a die is rolled every turn to see who controls Oswald, and the other player controls the peasants. This means that both Oswald and the peasants may change between hampering one player and hampering another, but neither player can be sure of the situation next turn. It also effectively renders the NPC forces as indecisive and lacking in purpose and initiative.

If you are using my own revolutionary initiative system then this should kick in only after both players have called out their codewords. One player with the initiative keeps it until it is snatched away from him, at which point the other player gets his initiative, then Oswald and the peasants get an action each in that order. An initiative system that should work for this scenario is one that gives a player a variable number of actions in his turn. He might get 1d4 of them, for example, or perhaps after each action he could roll 1d6 and get another action on a roll of 3 or greater.

Assuming that the scenario is being played by two players, the roll of the peasants and Oswald's men is to make things challenging for the players. Neither should have as much initiative as the players. If they did, the treasures might race off the table before either player could catch them.

If your initiative system allows a player to move all the men in his command during his turn, then this might be the turn sequence to use:

  1. Die roll to see which player takes first turn
  2. First player takes his turn.
  3. Second player takes his turn.
  4. Die roll to see who commands Oswald's men (simple 50/50 chance).
  5. Oswald's men make one action.
  6. Other player then makes one action with the peasants.

An "action" here is something done by a figure or group of figures who are all within 4" of another figure in the same group (this assumes 25/28mm figures are being used), and all move in the same direction or with the same general destination/intent. This means that not all of the peasants or Oswald's men will get to act in a turn, unless they are all together and acting in concert. Players controlling non-player forces are limited in that any shooting must be at priority targets (nearest and most obvious threats), and the peasants cannot voluntarily move to attack anyone else unless to join an existing melee.

Assessing loyalty

When a captain calls out his codeword, and not before, the loyalties of the men are decided. 1d20 is rolled as well as 1d6 at the same time, for each of the men in the column. This will take a few minutes, but need only be done once. If the 1d6 shows a 1, then the man is loyal to Oswald, but if it shows any other number then the number on the d20 decides which captain a man will obey. The formula is as follows: halve the difference between the two figures offered and add this to 50 and divide by 5 to get the number on the d20 to be rolled or less to show loyalty to the higher-offering captain. For example one player offers 40% and the other offers 65%. The difference is 25%, which halved is 12.5% added to 50 gives 62.5%, which divided by 5 gives 13 (round up), which means that a figure will be loyal to the captain who offered 65% if 1-13 inclusive is rolled on the d20. 14-20 indicates loyalty to the other captain. Fortunately for you, I have worked out all the permutations for you and put them on a handy chart (below).

Difference in Percentage of loot offered 0510152025303540 4550556065707580
d20 loyalty to higher-offering player 101011111212131314 1415151616171718

The men deciding their loyalties are not stupid. If several men declare themselves loyal to one captain, a man amongst them is not going to declare allegiance to his rival. He will keep quiet, move to the edge of the group, and then leg it over to some of his fellows. To simulate this, players can not attack with greater numbers other men in the column until those men have either initiated an attack, or have moved to join their fellows and then acted in concert with them. Small numbers of men are free to attack greater numbers if they so wish. You'll probably find that players pretty quickly band their men together, particularly if you are using an initiative system that goes by the single action, rather than one which allows all men to act independently every turn.

Calculating victory

At the end of the game, the players see how many bags of loot they have, and then calculate victory. Any loot taken off-table stays in the hands of whoever had it at the time. Each subtracts his offered percentage from 100, and multiplies his loot by this amount. For example, if a player has promised his men 35% of the loot, then this subtracted from 100 gives us the percentage he gets to keep: 65%. If he has got three bags of loot, then he has scored 3 x 65% = 1.95. His enemy offers 70%, and has got four bags of loot, so he only gets to keep 30% of 4, which is 1.2. So the man who got more bags of loot loses the game. One way to win the game is to secure a few bags of loot, and then get the peasants or Oswald to run off with the rest, depriving one's rival of income.

Three and four players

With three players, one player would control the peasants. These get a victory if they can get off-table with three treasures, and a major victory if they get off-table with more than that. They score a shared victory if they can get off table with two treasures and at least half their men. The peasants should be given a leader figure.

With four players, Oswald is a player character. He can win by killing both captains, or by getting the most treasure off the table, of which he gets to keep 100%. If Oswald is a player character, he should perhaps be given more than 1 in 6 men of the column, but 2 in 6 is too many. Perhaps roll a 1d12 if you have one, and count a result of 1-3 as loyalty to Oswald.

Playtest report

One player wrote 40%, the other 60%. Oswald's men started rounding up the nearer peasants when one captain yelled his codeword and took the first independent initiative. The die rolls favoured the higher offer and so one player had a definite superiority of troops. However, he needed to get five of the seven treasures to secure victory. The other player kept attacking him using Oswald's forces, led by Oswald. This backfired when Oswald was killed in the fighting and his men withdrew. A few fights broke out between differing parties around the table, but the stronger captain managed to get a couple of treasures and to threaten a couple more. Peasants were scattering, some carrying treasure. The lesser captain used his own figure and his mounted sergeant's to chase down fleeing peasants carrying treasure. This was good way to catch the peasants, because the mounted figures were so much faster. However, it was risk that backfired when he became isolated from his men, and a legitimate target for peasant archers, who shot him.

Brain Harvest

I had painted up loads of undead figures, and wanted a scenario to make use of them. The figures were sold as 'zombies', 'ghouls', 'wraiths', 'skeletons' and the like, but I chose to make no distinction. They were all dead bodies, made animate by magic.

"My school of necromancy is better than your school of necromancy" I said to my opponent, and then we set about working out our stats.

I defined a standard zombie. This standard zombie would be worth ten points, and had the following stats: Quality Rating 1 (same as a peasant) for combat, QR 2 for armour (resistance to missiles – my thinking was that zombies would be harder to kill with missiles than living men, and so they were treated as men-at-arms for this purpose), movement rate 4" (fairly slow), control range 10".

The control range was the distance a necromancer could control a zombie from. If a zombie moved to the edge of this range it would then stop and wait. If the necromancer moved further than this away from the zombie, the zombie would collapse on the spot. Zombies would also collapse if the controlling necromancer were killed.

This standard zombie could then be altered with powerful spells. Magic is costly however, and this was reflected in a points cost for upgrading a zombie. Similarly they could be down-graded for a saving in points.

  • Per 2" of control range: 1 point
  • 1" of speed: 1 point
  • Increased armour Quality Rating: 3 points per level (min level 1, max 3)
  • Increased Quality Rating in combat: 5 points per level (min 0, max 4)
  • Mounted (including the 12" speed of a normal horse): 10 points

Necromancers could only control zombies of one type. This kept things simple. A basic necromancer cost 40 points, and was treated otherwise as a QR 2 figure. Necromancers could be upgraded just like zombies.

Example zombies: Basic cost 10 + QR0 for combat (-5), Movement 5" (+1), Control Range 8" (–1) = 5 points per zombie. One standard necromancer (40) with 32 of these zombies under his control (160 points) makes a unit with a cost of 200.

Example #2: Basic cost 10 + QR2 (+5), Movement 10" (+6), Control Range 12" (+1), Armour QR3 (+3) = 25 points per zombie. A necromancer to control them with QR3 armour (+3) and a speed of 10" (to keep up with his own troops, +6) is 49 points.

Other zombie upgrades are of course possible: extra good marksmanship for archers perhaps, or some sort of magic for jamming the enemy's ability to control zombies.

1000 points per side is a reasonable amount.

The set up

I set up a squarish table, with a large village in the middle, with seventeen villagers in it. The table had quite a lot of terrain on it. Each player deployed up to 8" in from one end of the table. Obviously, all zombies had to be deployed within control range of their necromancers.


This is a competitive brain harvest. Fresh brains are very valuable for necromantic reasons that we needn't bother ourselves with. They just are. Each player had to use his zombies to kill villagers and carry their fresh brains off his deployment edge of the table. A zombie could carry one villager and move at normal rate (you might want to slow them down slightly, but not much). A zombie could pick up a body it was next to and move away in the same move, but could not move to, then pick up, and then move away with a body. A body could be handed over from one zombie to another. If a necromancer died, his brain was fresh and could be harvested in the same way.

Villager Behaviour and Turn Sequence

After both players have had a turn, the villagers have a turn. Villagers not seeing zombies will stand around until they see one. Villagers having some reasonable cause to move will move half the time and stay still half the time and dither. A simple die roll determines which (4+ on 1d6). Usually the direction of fleeing is quite easy to determine from the situation, but if not it can be randomised. Villagers do not flee off the table, but instead flee to cower in cover in one of their buildings. Most of the buildings in the playtest had two entrances, and zombies entering from one end of a longhouse would flush the villagers out the other end. If one player's zombies attack a villager, then the other player decides what the villager will do: fight, flee, or whatever.

Rules Considerations

Some rules for target priority are needed, because otherwise the game could be ruined by both sides just shooting at necromancers all the time. Simply forbidding zombies to shoot at necromancers is not the best idea, however, because there should be a level of threat to necromancers to keep the game exciting. The rule I used, and I think it worked well, was that every zombie between the archers and the enemy necromancer must be shot at by at least one zombie archer in a given turn, before any zombie can shoot at the necromancer. For example, there are five archers in a position to shoot at a necromancer (they have line of sight to him, and he is within range), but between the necromancer and the archers are three zombies. Three of the archers must shoot at the nearer enemies, and at most two archers can target the necromancer.

The control range in playtest was used as the limiting factor for control. The game would be more of a challenge, and would encourage player to spend points on more necromancers, if line of sight to the zombies under control were also required. Zombies passing out of sight would stop and wait. If attacked, they would fight at a substantial disadvantage. For a more advanced game, you could have zombies with very limited powers when not under direct control. For example, zombies that can keep walking in a straight line (useful for ferrying bodies off-table), zombies that can fight normally if attacked, and zombies that when passing out of sight of their controlling necromancer, have some chance of finding their way to him.

Victory Conditions

The winner has the most points at the end. Each fresh brain carried off the home deployment edge is worth 1 point, and killing an enemy necromancer is worth 5 points.

Tactical considerations

Since every upgrade costs points, there is balance to the scenario. A player who has many zombies will have rubbish zombies. A player who has fast zombies will have few zombies, or very weak ones.

The villagers in playtest were often very uncooperative with the zombies trying to harvest them, and having small units of fast zombies to rush forward and kill villagers before the enemy got there didn't work brilliantly, because both sides had a similar idea, and it took a fair while to kill many villagers.

Having a fast unit to rush round the table was a good idea, as this forced the enemy to surround his necromancers with zombies for protection, and meant that he could not ferry his fresh brains back to his home table edge without fear of enemy interception.

Having at least one unit with lots and lots of rubbish zombies was a good idea, because these could clog up large amounts of the table and make things difficult for the enemy.

Having a necromancer and a few fast zombies with the sole task of ferrying brains back to the home edge was a good idea that neither side tried in playtest. Sending a necromancer back to the home edge, to carry brains off table was a very costly thing to do tactically, because it meant withdrawing all his forces from the front line.

Alternative Setting

Having played this scenario, I think a similar one in which Achaeans and Trojans fight it out to harvest panoplies of armour might work nicely. An army could consist of timorous human troops lacking any personal initiative, egged on by charismatic leaders. The humans would be behaving much as the zombies do in this scenario.