posted by gradenko_2000 Original SA post


Someone in the general chat thread asked about how difficult it would be to learn the original Chainmail rules, and I've been on a wargaming kick lately, so I wanted to try and see for myself if I could grasp it.

* There is no prescribed scale for the game in the introduction, though some specifics are later offered:
- 40mm figures (Elastolin and Starlux are the brands mentioned), with a 1-to-20 ratio of figures to men
- 25mm figures (Airfix), with a 1-to-10 ratio of figures to men
- 1-inch-to-10-yards distance ratio
- 1-turn-to-1-minute time ratio


* The playing field is intended to be 8 feet long, and between 4-feet to 7-feet wide

* Force allocations can be based on historical accounts, based on a point-value system (described later in the rules), assigned by a third-party, or narratively extracted from a larger campaign situation.

* The game supports either an IGOUGO turn sequence, or a simultaneous move sequence. In either case, the general order of a turn is Movement, followed by Artillery fire, followed by Missile fire, followed by Melee fire


* Terrain:
- Hills reduce movement by 50% if going uphill, but normal movement when moving downhill, and units cannot charge uphill
- Woods also reduce movement and prevent charges, but also troops in ordered formations cannot move into it
- Marshes also reduce movement and prevent charges, but also heavy equipment (i.e. artillery) cannot enter
- Rough terrain prevents charges
- Ditches and ramparts also reduce movement and prevent charges
- Streams cost 6 inches of movement to cross, while rivers require that a unit halt at its edge, and then spend an entire (next) turn just to cross. That is, unless a ford or bridge is present that would allow movement
- There is a small card-draw system to randomly generate terrain features for a map


* I'm not going to recreate the entire unit table here, but let's get some basics down:

6 inches is the slowest movement of any unit in the game. This covers armored infantry and siege engines
Archers, less-armored infantry ("heavy foot"), and light infantry move at 9 inches
Light cavalry move at 24 inches, medium cavalry move at 18 inches, and heavy cavalry move at 12 inches

Armored infantry still charge at 6 inches
heavy and light infantry charge at 12 inches
Light cavalry charge at 30 inches, medium cavalry charge at 24 inches, and heavy cavalry charge at 18 inches

Archers have 15 inches of ranged missile fire, crossbowmen have 18 inches of range, and longbowmen have 21 inches of range

Troops can either be in line, column, or square formation. Changing between each costs 1 inch of movement, except going from line to square, which costs 2.

Changing facing obliquely costs one-quarter of an inch of movement, left-or-right-face costs half-an-inch of movement, and an about-face costs one inch of movement. This is doubled if the troops are of bad quality, and halved for elite troops and cavalry.



Moving 5 turns consecutively, or moving 2 turns consecutively + charging + meleeing, or moving + charging + meleeing for 2 turns, or meleeing for 3 turns, will all cause a unit to become fatigued, which makes them attack and defend as the next-worse quality of troop (i.e. armored infantry becomes heavy infantry), and gives them a morale penalty.

One turn of not-moving lifts fatigue


Missile Fire:

You take the number of archers in the unit, compare them to the target type, roll a d6, and the result is how many figures are taken out

So if you had a unit of 7 archers (representing 70 archers at the 25mm scale), and you were shooting at unarmored infantry, and you rolled a 3 on the d6, you would take out 4 figures from the targeted unit.

Archers can fire once per turn. If they haven't moved, and are not meleed by the end of the turn, they can fire a second time. They can otherwise move up half their movement and still get to fire.

Horse archers can move up to half their movement, fire missiles, and then still get to move the remaining half of their movement afterwards.

Units in cover will take half damage from missile fire


Next: Charging and melee combat

Melee Combat

posted by gradenko_2000 Original SA post


(I am skipping a section on rules for missile fire from siege weapons as well as gunpowder weapons. I'm mentioning that they exist, but for the purposes of what I'm writing, it's far too detailed to get a basic idea of what the system is like)


Melee Combat

The basic mechanic is that you take your base unit, and compare it to the target. That will give you the number of d6 dice to roll based on the number of men you have, and it will tell you which results will cause kills.

For example, if you have a unit of 10 Heavy Horsemen, and you're attacking 20 Heavy Footmen, you would roll 3d6 per Heavy Horse figure, and then every 5 or 6 result would kill/remove one Heavy Footman figure.

Simultaneously, the Footmen would roll 1d6 per four Footmen figures, and then every 6 result would kill/remove one Heavy Horseman figure.

if we were to play this out, 10 Heavy Horsemen at 3d6 per figure would mean rolling 30d6. I got a result of:


That would result in 15 kills

Then, the Footmen would roll: 20 Heavy Footmen at 1d6 per four figures would mean rolling 5d6. I got a result of:


That would result in zero kills.

The kills would then be applied, leaving 10 Heavy Horsemen and 5 Heavy Footmen on the board.

After this, morale is then checked.



Step A: First, the side with fewer casualties will take the difference between their losses, and the losses suffered by the enemy. A d6 is rolled, the result is multiplied by that difference, and then the output is kept.

In our example, that's 0 Heavy Horsemen lost versus 15 Heavy Footmen lost, so a difference of 15, times ... rolls a d6 = [4], giving us an output of 60.

Step B: Then, the side with more surviving troops will take the difference between the number of their surviving troops, and the surviving troops of the enemy. And then this output is kept.

In our example, that's 10 Heavy Horsemen remaining versus 5 Heavy Footmen remaining, so a difference of 5.

Step C: Then, each side takes their surviving figures and multiples them by a certain number depending on the unit type:

In our example
10 Heavy Horsemen x 9 = 90
5 Heavy Footmen x 5 = 25

Step D: Both sides will add up the numbers they arrived at in the first three steps:

Heavy Horsemen: 60 StepA + 5 StepB + 90 StepC = 155
Heavy Footmen: 60 StepA + 5 StepB + 25 StepC = 90

Whichever side arrives at a lower total, will then refer to the following table for the result:

Since the difference in our example is 38, then the Heavy Footmen will retreat their whole movement capability (in this case, 9 inches).



When a unit charges, it gets to move at the speed of its charge (which is more than its movement), but the unit must engage in melee combat before or at the end of the movement.

If a charging unit wins the melee, and did not use up all of its charging distance, it must use up the remainder of that movement after the melee is concluded.

If a ranged unit is interspersed with melee units, and is charged, the ranged figures may withdraw 3 inches, and leave the melee units to take the melee combat. However, if the melee units lose, and the charging attacker still has enough movement to come into contact with the ranged units, then the ranged units will still be attacked afterwards.



Units that are attacking from the flank are considered the next higher class of unit, while Armored Foot and Heavy Horse get a +1 on their die rolls.


Retreat and Rout:

Units that have retreated or routed (as opposed to the "back x move" result) cannot move on their next turn, because they are still rallying.

If a unit that is still rallying gets attacked, the defender rolls a d6, and on a 1 or 2, the defender immediately rallies and gets to fight normally. Otherwise, the attacker gets to roll for melee casualties, but the defender cannot.

If a unit that is retreating or routing moves into contact with a friendly unit, then the movement is immediately stopped, but both units are now considered retreating/routing and must be rallied.



If a rallying unit is not moved by its player for one turn, and is not attacked while rallying, it return in good order on the next turn.

If the player controlling a rallying unit decides to move it, or if the rallying unit is attacked, then:
If the rallying unit is on its 2nd turn of rallying, then the player must roll a d6, and on a 3 to 6, the unit will return in good order on the next turn.
If the rallying unit is on its 3rd turn of rallying, then the player must roll a d6, and on a 6, the unit will return in good order on the next turn.
If the rallying unit is on its 4th turn of rallying, it is removed from play.


Next: Additional melee and morale rules

Additional and optional rules for melee combat "for added realism"

posted by gradenko_2000 Original SA post


Additional and optional rules for melee combat "for added realism"

Prisoners: there's a die roll and another table lookup involved in checking how many prisoners are taken from a unit that loses in melee combat. They count as additional losses on top of "kills" scored after a melee, but every 5 prisoners need 1 unit as a guard, lest they escape and fight again.

Impetus: Heavy foot, armored foot, and all Horse units get a +1 to their die rolls if they charge across flat, smooth terrain, or charge downhill.

Cavalry: if a Horse unit engages in combat without having moved during the previous turn, they're considered one category worse on the combat tables in terms of dealing damage/causing casualties, ostensibly because they perform worse if they're only stationary.

Hedgehog: Swiss and Landsknechte units can form a square-type hedgehog formation that moves at half of its base speed, and cannot charge, but also can only be attacked by units with similar pike or polearm-type weapons.

Instability due to excess casualties: if units lose a certain percentage of their original figures, they must take this other kind of morale check.

For example, light infantry or peasant levies will take this check upon losing at least 25% of their original number. 2d6 is rolled, and the unit passes on an 8 or better. Other infantry will check after losing 33%, and will need a 7 to pass. Heavy Horse will check after losing 50%, and will need a 6 to pass, etc.

Units that fail this check are removed from the map entirely and immediately.

Swiss/Landsknechte Pike Charge: units that are charged by these kinds of units must undergo the instability morale check mentioned above, except units that fail the check instead merely retreat (and must rally) instead of getting eliminated entirely.

Cavalry Charge: units that are charged by horsemen must take a different kind of morale check, using a third table and rolling 2d6 to pass a certain number. Failed checks cause the charged units to retreat (and must rally).

Historical characteristics: there's an entire section here in specific rules for Knights, Peasant Levies, Mercenaries, English Longbowmen, Magyars, Mongols, Poles, Russians, Saracens, Scots, Spaniards, Tartars, Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese.

Army Commanders: players can designate a specific figure as an Army Commander. The unit that the figure is operating with, as well as all other units within 12 inches of the commander, will get a +1 to all die rolls. The unit that the commander is in will also always automatically rally, and the army commander itself will always be the last figure to be killed. However, if the commander is killed, then the entire army must take an instability morale check.

Baggage: each player will secretly designate a section of the map that will serve as their baggage camp. If an enemy unit ever enters this secret area, all of the units of the player who owns the area will have to break off and head for the baggage area in order to protect it from being looted.


The next three sections are optional rules on Weather, Sieges, and Man-to-Man (what we might call Skirmish) combat. I'll be skipping them because they're not quite relevant to my interest in the system (that is, as a mass-combat "supplement" to a fantasy TRPG campaign that's expanded to this scale), but I do want to note that they exist).


Point Values

These are given out on a per-figure basis:

Peasants are worth half-a-point
Levee's are worth three-quarters of a point
Light infantry are worth one point
Heavy infantry are worth 2 points
Armored infantry are worth 2.5 points
Light horsemen, Medium horsemen, and Heavy horsemen are worth 3, 4, and 5 points, respectively

Pikemen are worth 1 point
Arquebusiers/crossbowmen are worth 1.5 points
Archers are worth 3 points
Longbowmen/composite bow-men are worth 4 points
Catapults, Cannon, and Bombards are worth 15, 20, and 30 points, respectively


Impressions so far

Everything I've read so far up to the melee combat seems eminently playable and reasonable, and bears a resemblance to the few minis wargames I've read (Age of Sigmar, Bolt Action). It's when you get to the morale checks that things kinda get janky because the three step process to figure out the morale result involves a "fourth-wall-breaking" amount of arithmetic that just feels tedious, especially given the number of melee rounds that I think any engagement would require.

Throwing in the instability morale checks would probably help as far as eliminating units faster.


Next: the Fantasy Supplement

The Fantasy Supplement

posted by gradenko_2000 Original SA post


The Fantasy Supplement

This section mostly deals with describing new units that would be appropriate for a fantasy campaign. All of the basic rules are the same, but then the fantasy units have special exceptions.

Halflings: they are archers, except two halfling figures count as three archers when computing how many units are firing while resolving missile fire. Also, they are "invisible" when moving through brush or woods.


Invisibility, as the game defines it, means that they never suffer any casualties during the first round of a melee. By the second round onwards, the enemy will have figured out the little Predator-esque visual distortions caused by an invisible unit and can start hitting them back, but the invisible units good and safe for that first round.

Sprites: they're light infantry, except they can also become invisible, and they can fly (ignoring terrain and other units) for as many as three turns at a time before having to land.

Dwarves and Gnomes: they're heavy infantry, except:
- they suffer no penalties during night fighting
- when inflicting casualties against Trolls, Ogres, and Giants, only count half as many kills, because they're so small that they can't hit these large targets very well
- when taking casualties from these large units, also only count half as many kills, because they're so small that these attackers can't hit them very well
- if a Dwarf or a Gnome is ordered to attack, and a Goblin or Kobold unit within charging range, the Dwarf/Gnome unit will always target the Goblin/Kobold unit, regardless of whatever else the player might want them to attack

Goblins and Kobolds: they're heavy infantry, except:
- they suffer no penalties during night fighting
- they suffer a -1 penalty to all die rolls if they are fighting in bright light or daylight
- they will also reciprocally and automatically target a Dwarf/Gnome unit if one is in charge range whenever ordered to attack

Hobgoblins: same rules as the Goblins/Kobolds, except their stats are as armored infantry (and they cost a little more)

Elves and Fairies: they're heavy infantry, except:
- they can turn invisible
- they can shoot as archers
- they have the move-and-fire ability of horse archers, even though they're on foot
- if this unit is determined to be armed with magical weapons, they get a +1 bonus to rolls in combat. They also get to roll additional combat dice against Goblins and Orcs
- if this unit is determined to be armed with magical weapons, they are also capable of attacking and killing "high-level" (my term, not the game's) fantasy creatures, which would normally be immune to such attacks

Orcs: they're heavy infantry, except:
- they suffer a -1 penalty to all die rolls if they are fighting in bright light or daylight
- any two units of orcs are considered to be of different bands/tribes. If an orc unit approaches another orc unit within charge range, and neither are tied up by an ongoing melee, the player will have to roll a d6. If the result 4 or higher, then the orcs are "obedient". Otherwise, they will charge the other orc unit and attack them in melee combat
- there is also a Giant Orc unit that has the same rules, except their stats are as armored infantry (and they cost a little more)

Next: more fantasy units

The Hero

posted by gradenko_2000 Original SA post


The Hero

This is really the first of the more special Fantasy supplement units, and they have a bunch of special rules:

- they never check morale

- their combat stats can range from being Light Infantry, to Heavy Horse, depending on their specific depiction

- as well, they count as four men at a time when rolling attacks

- conversely, in order to kill a Hero, they must take four or more hits in order to die

as an example, if you had a Hero that was considered by the players to be the equivalent of Armored Infantry, they were fighting a unit of Light Infantry:
- the Hero would roll four dice, and score kills on 4s, 5s, and 6s
- the Light Infantry would roll one die for every three Light Infantry figures, and score kills on 6s ... and they need at least four 6s (which would require 12 Light Infantry, minimum) to kill the Hero. If they only score three 6s or less, nothing happens to the Hero at all

- if they're made into being part of a larger unit, they will add a +1 to all of the rolls made by that unit, and they're also the last figure to die as that unit takes casualties

- if a Hero is armed with a bow, they can take shots at a Dragon unit if it flies within the Hero's range. The Hero's player rolls 2d6, and kills the dragon on a 10 or better. If the Hero is armed with a Magic Arrow, they get a +1 to this roll

- as a more general rule of combat, whenever these certain Fantasy creatures fight each other, instead of using the standard combat table, they use this combat table:

The attacker rolls 2d6, and:
- if they roll under the target number, nothing happens
- if they roll equal to the target number, the defender must move back a distance equal to their base movement
- if they roll above their target number, the defender is killed

There is also the Super Hero unit, as you can see on the table, and they're even more powerful: they count as 8 men on the attack, they need to take 8 hits from normal combatants to be killed, they can shoot-down flying dragons on a 2d6 roll of 8, and whenever they charge, the unit being charged takes an instability morale check.

The last thing I want to mention is that a Hero / Super Hero unit has a specific tie-in to Dungeons & Dragons:

That's right - if you're playing Chainmail and Dungeons & Dragons side-by-side, and your Fighting Man has achieved level 4, then they can join the Chainmail battlefield as a Hero unit, and ostensibly the choice of which unit they count as (Heavy Infantry, Heavy Horse, etc.) can be based on what equipment the character has as a PC!

This actually makes Chainmail a pretty interesting choice for being used as a mass combat rules "expansion" for a D&D campaign: at a high enough level, you're powerful enough to take on entire regiments/battalions by yourself, rather than the "zoom-out" causing your character to become just another face in the army.

As a final aside, this feature of Chainmail where the Hero gets to attack multiple times against "regular" creatures (but not the high-level special ones), is something that D&D shared with / copied / was back-ported into. I blogged about this particular topic a while back.


posted by gradenko_2000 Original SA post



Like Heroes, Wizards are individual units. They count as Armored Foot when rolling in combat, or Medium Horse if they're mounted.

Further, they count as TWO of these - as in, they roll attacks as if there were two Armored Foot/Medium Horse, and anyone attacking a Wizard needs to score two kills in order to kill a Wizard.

Wizards are also "invisible" - which again in this game means that they take zero casualties during the first round of a melee.

Wizards are also unaffected by darkness.

Wizards will grant a +1 bonus to die rolls of a unit that is joined with.

Wizards will cause units to take an instability morale check if it charges an enemy unit.

But all that's not even their true power or purpose

Magical Artillery

At the start of the game, the Wizard will choose whether they will hurl fireballs, or lightning bolts during the Missile phase.

If they choose to hurl fireballs, then the Wizard uses the Heavy Catapult rules:

The player calls out a distance and an angle, and rolls two differently colored dice - one for an undershoot, and one for an overshoot. The player picks the higher die and makes the "shot" fall farther or lesser, as appropriate. If the die are tied, then the shot lands exactly. A Heavy Catapult's shot has a diameter of 3.5 inches. Anything fully or partially within that area, is killed.

If they choose to shoot lightning bolts, then the player will call out a distance anywhere within 24 inches, and anything from that point, to 6 inches back towards towards the Wizard, gets zapped by the lightning bolt.

Regular troops are instantly destroyed by these attacks, but high-level fantasy creatures (including Heroes) are allowed to roll 2d6 against a certain target number to save against its effects.

Next: Wizard Spellcasting