WARPATH Rules for Mass CombatBy Thilo Graf

This pdf by Adamant Entertainment, is 65 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving 59 pages of content.

The book kicks off with a flavour-text (6 pages) describing life in the army/ in battle. I liked the prose.

After that, we get one page introduction describing recommend unit sizes, how to handle epic battles and that the standard square of a game map represents roughly 10 feet.

The next chapter details the designing of the unit, the default combatants in Warpath. (3 pages) Units are usually written down on Unit cards (standard index cards work fine) and can be created in 6 rather easy steps. Units have an attack bonus, class abilities, CMB, CMD, damage bonus, feats, Hit Die, Type, Movement and saving throws. The calculations are easy and quickly done and take chariots, are of effect attacks, intelligent mounts, flying units and the like into account. However, due to the lack of skill scores of units, e.g. the fly-skill of flying units does not fracture into the equation, which I consider to be a pity. I also think it’s a pity that a unit’s discipline is quite dependent on law vs. chaos and offers no guidelines for the results of speeches by the commanders etc. on the unit’s discipline. These are the only two things I did miss from these comprehensive and elegant rules, though.

The next chapter (6 pages) deals with Warpath-combat, which works somewhat akin to standard combat, with some modifications that remind me a bit of Warhammer: First ranged attacks, then recalculation, the move phase (and manoeuvre checks), then melee (and morale) and then a final recalculation of the Unit strength. The system makes sense and takes several factors into account: Natural 1s &20s, Guns and straight-firing ranged attacks, High discrepancies between e.g. a Unit of peasants fighting a unit of dragons (they won’t 20-kill the dragon unit), high attack bonuses, attacks of opportunity, poison, regeneration and damage reduction. Problems like power attack, siege weapons and flanking are also covered. Just like in Warhammer, you really don’t want your unit to be routed – there could be a bad domino effect and serious penalties for units that get routed.

There is also a chapter on battlefield manoeuvres (5 pages), of course. 7 manoeuvres are given, Bull rush, counter charge, disengage, formation (open/close formation, hedgehog, set stakes, setting aside against a charge, shield wall, tortoise formation, wedge), march, pass through, rally. – The manoeuvres offer a nice plethora of tactical decisions. Unintelligent or ordered creatures are taken care of via the little mob sidebar – they are not too efficient.

The next chapter takes a look at spells 6 spell-like abilities and their importance in battle – as far as I could tell, the rules seem balanced but take the relative rarity of spellcasters and their power into account.

After that, we get two pages on deployment and typical deployment. (2 pages) Whoever loses the scouting (check by the generals) has to put its army on the map first. Terrian takes into account hills, forests and bodies of water. I was missing desert, snow, underground etc. and would have loved the section to be expanded.

The next pages detail post-battle decisions (5 pages): There is a mechanic for casualty rolls, prisoners 6 ransom, for killing prisoners, decimation as a corporal punishment for cowardice as well as a quick and dirty Quick Mass Combat rule including a table to quickly determine the outcome of a battle.

Sieges are an interesting scenario and, of course, the next chapter deals with sieges. (8 pages) The chapter provides rules for enchanting siege weapons, siege weapons, sambucas, siege towers, etc. It also mentions undermining, starving a defender as well as the possibilities offered by e.g. bulettes and giant spiders in a side-box. However, I would have loved to see some examples for fantasy siege tactics – this would have been a great opportunity to write truly creative strategies.

If you want to pit your army against another player or on fair terms, one page offers us a point-buy system.

The next chapter is a sample army for the PCs to defeat: The enemy is a human wizard and his army of zombies, frost giants and megaraptor-riding trolls, including the 4 unit cards. (2 pages)

The final chapter (13 pages) details all the complications and things to consider when running a campaign, such as city income, increasing city sizes, rebellions, upkeep of an army, mustering armies (in tribal, feudal, professional and mercenary cultures), baggage trains, long and forced marches, battlefield fortifications, supplying an army and diseases.

The book closes with 4 more example unit cards. (2 pages)

Conclusion:

The layout follows the two-columns standard and is easy to read, the b/w-artwork is mostly historic in style (which I actually like) and public domain as far as I could tell. However, one problem is that much of the artwork takes up a lot of space – there are several whole page artworks and I felt that the space would have been better used by expanding upon the fantasy aspects of warfare. The editing, while ok and not leading to any problems in grasping the rules, is not perfect – there are some instances of missing single letters.

It’s kind of hard to rate this book as there is, apart from the rudimentary Kingmaker rules, no other mass combat rules for PFRPG as of yet, thus my only point of reference is Malhavoc Press’s 3.5.-book Cry Havoc. While the crunch presented in Warpath is elegant and easy to understand and worked in a sample battle I had with my group, I feel that there are many aspects missing from the book, especially morale-wise: Are the gods on the side of an army? Clashing religions? Control weather and different terrain types, long overland marches through different terrains, the effects of great speeches and generals on morale etc. There is simply a lot of ground to cover that is missing in WARPATH. If more of the space of the artwork had gone to some of these aspects, the file would probably be THE resource for mass combat and I’d immediately recommend it to everybody. As it stands, Warpath unfortunately falls short of its potential.

Thus, I’ll settle for 2 scores: One for the people who are willing to work on the rules, who want mass combat in their games to take a major role etc. – For those willing to expand upon the elegant and concisely written rules, this pdf is a 3 star-file.

For all the people who want mass combat rules for one epic battle with a lot of spells, terrain control or who want their campaign to take all the tactical finesses into account, fantasy sieges, etc. this is a nice place to start, but falls short of realizing what it sets out to do. For you, this is a 2 star-file.

My final verdict will be 2.5 stars, rounded down.