Playing a Warmaster Game
There is more than one way to play a Warmaster game – but for the most part a battle begins by both players deploying their armies on opposing sides of the battlefield either 80cm or 90cm apart. All distances in Warmaster are measured in centimetres and players will need to provide themselves with a tape measure to determine moves, shooting ranges and so forth. In Warmaster players are free to measure any distances any time they like, whether it is their turn or otherwise. Dice are needed to make various tests and to resolve the results of combat – a good twenty or thirty dice are required.
At the start of the game each player begins by working out his army’s break point and telling his opponent what this is. This is usually half the total number of units in the army – although not all types of unit count towards the break point so often it will be something less than half the total. Once the number of units equal to the break point has been destroyed the army is defeated and the game is over. It’s important to know what your opponent’s break point is as this establishes what you must do to win the game.
Command and Movement
A dice is rolled to decide which side gets the first turn after which players take it in turns to move their armies and shoot with missile troops. In his turn the player attempts to give his individual units orders to move, and he rolls dice to determine whether he has done so successfully. The player starts by nominating which unit he wishes to move. Every commander or character model has a Command value (typically 7, 8 or 9). The player rolls 2 dice and adds the scores together to get a result of between 2 and 12. If the dice roll score equal to or under the Command value then the commander or character has successfully issued his order and his nominated unit moves up to its proscribed maximum distance.
Units can move more than once each turn, and commanders can continue giving orders to the same or different units until they fail a dice roll. If an order is failed then not only does the commander stop issuing orders that turn, but the unit itself cannot receive orders and therefore will not move. As you can imagine – the trick is to keep your units in coherent fighting formations and not to hare off into the distance just because you have rolled a few lucky dice!
The Command roll is also modified by various factors that make it harder for orders to be issued or received. For example, if the distance between the commander and the unit he wishes to move is very great then it will be harder for the order to be issued and a suitable penalty is applied. Similarly is a unit has taken casualties (which means some stands will have been removed) it is less enthusiastic about obeying orders. Most importantly, if a unit is given successive orders a rolling penalty of -1 is applied to each making it increasingly difficult to move units that have already moved in the turn.
To make matters more interesting units are allowed to use their initiative and move without orders in some situations – primarily if they are very close to the enemy. Units using their initiative are quite restricted in what they can do –generally speaking they must either attack or retreat away from the closest enemy. This is very useful once the opposing armies close for action as it means units are able to engage without relying on orders from their commanders.
A further wrinkle is that units arranged into blocks or connected groups can be given orders and moved at the same time. This enables larger groups of units to be moved all at once. This obviously makes moving easier and it prevents units becoming separated from their friends and hence vulnerable to enemy action. It also means they might all fail to receive an order at the same time and get stuck where they are of course – but at least they won’t be on their own.
Movement normally ends once all the commanders have failed their rolls or because all units have moved as far as they wish. In any case, once movement is complete the player can engage the enemy with long ranged shooting from weapons such as bows, crossbows, bolt-throwing engines, javelins and magic spells (though not in Warmaster Ancients of course!)