War and Conquest is the spiritual successor of Warhammer Ancient Battles (WAB), written by Rob Broom who worked on WAB. For your £20 you get a solidly bound and very attractive rulebook, and army lists are available for free online.

If you’ve got an ancient or medieval army that’s gathering dust since the days of WAB I’d highly recommend getting a copy. There are a lot of nice little touches that simplify and speed up gameplay.

Force composition

No real surprises here, WaC is points-based. There have been an absolute landslide of army lists produced, pretty much every army that ever took the field has a list available on the Scarab forum (all for free!), and some of the most popular ones have been given a spit and polish and are available from http://warandconquest.blogspot.com/. The latter lists are the ones used in tournaments.

Troops are based singly on 20mm for infantry. There’s nothing stopping you basing some in multiple, but you will need to remove single casualties. Units are generally about 10-15 for cavalry and skirmishers and 20-30 for core infantry. For a 2500pt game you’ll need about 4-6 infantry units, plus skirmishers and cavalry. So you’re looking somewhere around 150-200 miniatures. You can play smaller games, but some armies don’t scale down well.

Command and Control

WaC is IGoUGo, with a slight twist. At the start of each turn players can dice to gain Strategic Advantage for that turn. You can try to boost this roll using extra dice bought with Strategic Initiative Points. SIPs are a valuable resource, as besides forcing Strategic Advantage they can help units pass break tests (and a few other things).

The player with Strategic Advantage decides who goes first in each turn, so it’s entirely possible to get a double turn. If done at the critical moment this can be decisive. It’s a simple mechanic that can create a lot of drama. Within each turn it breaks down into the familiar Move > Shoot > Fight sequence, followed by a “resolution phase” (see below).

Generally you’ll get to activate every unit every turn. Simple manoeuvres are free, but if you want your troops to conduct complex moves you’ll have to dice for it and if you fail they do nothing that turn. The result is that if you’re simply moving your army straight forwards and trying to get into contact you should have no problem, but once the lines have met, the enemy are in your face and your pre-battle formation is disrupted your army becomes harder to control. Troop quality helps a lot with this, as some troops will have penalties and bonuses for command tests to pull off fancy moves.

The main role of leader figures is to boost command tests needed to manoeuvre and morale tests in combat, although if they join units they do add a small amount of extra punch. There’s no particular need for many leaders to join units, they are perfectly effective behind your battle line, which is where many historical generals would have been anyway. It’s another nice point which makes WaC feel sensible and grounded, and not like you’re playing Herohammer.

Movement

Troops in WaC move quickly. Until the enemy get close almost all units can double pace and wheel freely, giving 8-10″ moves for formed infantry, 12″ for foot skirmishers and 14-18″ for cavalry. You won’t have any trouble getting into action in a WaC game, which is a criticism I’ve heard levelled against games like Hail Caesar (which could well be a great game otherwise, I’ve not played it…)

A refight of the Battle of Nagashino, Takeda cavalry charging in against the Oda line.

One feature of WaC is that units move in whatever order you like, including charges. So it’s possible to declare a charge through a skirmish screen (they don’t block line of sight) and simply have the skirmishers move aside before the charge goes in.

Deployment

As befitting the period, there’s nothing too fancy in the deployment system, you line ’em up and advance. There are a few variations on the theme to keep things from getting boring, and you’ve got the option to hold some of your army in reserve and launch unpleasant surprises.

Combat

The combat mechanic shows its Warhammer roots, roll dice to hit/save/wound for each man fighting. The combat result is the number of wounds inflicted plus ranks, flanking and a +1 for charging. Loser takes a break test modified by the net result and both roll for flee and pursue.

Combats are often sustained over a few turns, as the +1 for charging isn’t a decisive bonus and you normally only fight with the first rank in the first round of combat. In subsequent rounds additional ranks join in, so it can become pretty bloody, and you’ll be rolling lots of dice.

What you’ll also get in subsequent rounds is a “push and shove” bonus. A side which wins a combat gets +1 to the next round, and this is cumulative. Once you start losing a combat it can take some lucky rolling to swing it back again.

Units over half strength take all morale and command tests on 3d6 and discard then highest, so units are generally pretty solid while they’re strong, often it takes a few rounds of combat for one side to get worn down before somebody breaks. The rank bonuses in WaC are pretty small, so most units are quite wide and shallow. Units of 24-30 in three ranks are common. Personally I think a lot of ancient and medieval troops should be much deeper than this, but some armies like the Romans really did fight in only three ranks, so I guess it’s ok.

I like the way skirmishers work; they can charge formed units, but simply make their attacks (and get a few back) then move out of contact without any combat result. So they can harass and wear down formed troops, but can’t break them. Skirmishers vs skirmishers fight normally and can break each other.

Multiple combats work fairly simply, units breaking while engaged on multiple flanks are simply destroyed, which saves a lot of faffing about trying to work out which way they’d flee.

Morale and Psychology

As mentioned above units above half strength are pretty reliable, especially with leaders nearby, but if they take heavy casualties they become much more flaky.  The selection of things triggering morale tests is the usual familiar stuff (friends breaking from combat, nearby fleeing friends, death of a general, etc). What WaC does do a nice job of is pushing all of that into a “resolution phase” that takes place after all shooting and combat. Once all the action has been decided the psychological impact of it is applied together in the resolution phase. Once both players have had their turn there’s an end phase where everybody gets a chance to rally.

Skirmishers tend to flee a lot, they have low morale and often get seen off by taking 20% casualties from shooting. They won’t cause panic in formed units when they flee.

You can use SIPs to add extra dice when taking a break test, allowing a general to focus on holding a critical part of the line.

One nice tweak is that each army can field “rally points”. After their first flee move troops all flock towards their rally point, which removes any messy complications. Once they’re within 10″ of a table edge they head straight off that, but do get one last chance to rally and come back on before disappearing forever.

Victory Conditions

You always have a specific objective for the battle, such as:

  1. Move several units off your opponent’s edge
  2. Destroy the two most valuable enemy units
  3. Loot the enemy camp
  4. Take and hold the centre of the table
  5. Destroy 75% of the enemy army
  6. Move a unit into your enemy’s deployment zone while keeping your own clear
  7. Capture the enemy general

(These are the updated objectives from here, as the ones in the rulebook needed tweaking).

Yes, but is it fun?

I’ve had a few games now, and they all played out well with a clear result, and in about 2-4 hours. It’s critical in WaC to maintain your battle line and avoid getting flanked, so battles are often pretty unsophisticated, with two lines trudging straight into each other. That’s not the most dynamic game in the world, but it is what historical ancient and medieval armies usually did so it’s hard to really fault the rules for it. Some armies that used more complex tactics (eg: Roman manipular formations) do work differently from the “form one big line and fight” games, so the unsophisticated tactics of many armies aren’t necessarily due to a lack of flexibility in WaC’s system. Once the lines break (which they will sooner or later) things can become a bit more fluid, but if you want to execute lots of fancy manoeuvres you should probably be playing Naps anyway.

One nice touch I do enjoy is that with the need for rally points, push and shove markers and some way of tracking your SIPs players tend to add a lot of nice little touches to their armies. Rally points are often little vignettes, and SiPs and push and shove markers are often miniatures, some of which are a lot of fun.

It’s a neat, well-thought out rule set which anybody coming from WAB or even WHFB would be able to pick up quickly, and with just the right bits changed from those to make a better historical game.