Fixing WHFB – Combat Resolution and Fear/Terror

So I’ve been thinking about combat resolution in Warhammer Fantasy lately. It’s really changed since the old 3rd edition that I started with. The old rules were vastly more interesting to what we have in the modern game, but were a bit more arcane.

After winning in a combat you could do a ‘wrap around’ back in the days of yore. The entailed taking some rear ranks of a unit and placing them on the flanks of the unit you are fighting. You could also widen your frontage with this maneuver. It made sense thinking of ancient battles. If a block of ancient warriors began to beat their enemy they could surround them to finish them off.

But as with most game vs. reality debates, it did trespass on easy to play rules and slowed the game down.

That’s the issue when trying to simulate realism. The more accurate to reality you get, the more unplayable the game will become. Imagine rolling for every model as if they were from your favorite RPG game. You’d be lucky if you finished a turn of combat before the day was done, although you’d get some fantastically realistic results… 🙂

So somewhere along the editions Games Workshop chose to change it. There is much speculation as to why. Some people think that it was an attempt to make the game appeal to a younger crowd to get more players, others say it was a much-needed change. No mater what the driving factors were – the change was warranted. While wrapping around to the flanks and even rear (if combat was going well) was fun, it was definitely harder to learn.

So now we have today’s combat resolution, which is a step too far in the opposite direction. Now you make a leadership check at the end modified by how much you lost combat by and flee if you fail. Much simpler, but also much more deadly. It also has the addition problem of marginally losing combat, failing a leadership check with a high roll, and fleeing an amazing 2″. This could mean that a lone hero could charge a block of 100 men, kill 5, and have the rest of the 95 men cut down. It beggars belief. This is of course unlikely, but if you replace a lone hero with 10 Chaos Warriors and you’ll see how strange the visuals are.

On on hand we had a slow grinding combat where you had to kill every model (or close to it), and on the other hand a couple of casualties could see 100+ men cut down. It’s a comparison of extremes.

What I suggest is to make the combat a big more dynamic without slowing play.

First of all the victor of the combat should have a choice of where to tactically take the combat. I see this as 3 options. First of all is holding ground. Hold Ground is where the victorious combatants choose to stand their ground and keep fighting. This is essentially the same as the current rules assuming the loser made their leadership test. This means all units in the combat are locked and will continue to fight next combat phase.

Next up is a Drive Forward. This means that the losing unit is pushed back d6″ away from the combat. This would be used if the victors are trying to push forward for an objective or to simply break the enemy lines. The enemy units are ‘dragged’ along so that they remain in base to base with any enemy models they are currently engaged with. If there are multiple units on the victors’ side, the player may choose one unit to be the ‘pushing’ force – the other engaged models will move away from that unit’s front facing.

Finally the winning side can choose to perform a Tactical Fall Back. This means that the winners fall back d6″. After making the fall back, engaged enemies may choose to either remain in contact, in which case they slide up to re-establish the combat going base to base with as many previously engaged models as possible. Or they can choose to hold back, in which case they stay where they are.

The advantage to a Tactical Fall Back would mean that you could break off if it’s your turn next to either charge back in for the charge bonus, or to pull back to protect a valued piece of terrain or other unit. This could also allow units to ‘draw in’ the enemy for future flank charges and the like. In short, it makes the game a bit more tactical – which is a good thing in my eyes.

No matter what is chosen, the victors may get a free reform at this point.

Next up, assuming it was either a Hold Ground or Drive Forward move on the victor’s part, the enemy unit makes a leadership check. Do this in the regular way of roll under on 2d6 and look at the results. Except this time it won’t be a straight up win/loss. We’ll add a little chart to reference to see the results, double 1’s will still be a success no matter what:


Break Test Failed by:

1-2 : Beaten: Gain a Exhaustion Token (described below)

3-5 : Losing Ground : Gain 2 Exhaustion Tokens and pushed back d6″ (May be combined with a Drive Forward result. Victors may choose to remain in combat as if the enemy chose a Tactical Fall Back)

6+ : Rout! (Also described below)


So what is an Exhaustion Token? It’s essentially something you put down beside the unit to show it’s losing the battle. A coin or something similar will do. The effects of these tokens are first of all a modifier to leadership checks. -1 per token on the unit. If a unit gains 3 or more Tokens, they automatically Rout. If a unit begins the combat phase without an enemy unit in base to base, all Exhaustion Tokens are removed.

A Rout result is similar to the flee the result now. It’s completed in the same manner with one exception. If the unit is caught, it counts as a new charge and the fleeing unit ranks up again. The charging unit then gets to perform attacks as normal, accounting for flanks, rear, charging bonuses and weapon bonuses as usual. The routed unit however only gets to attack back with the models in base to base ONLY, showing their disorganization from the rout.

So now you have to consider if pursuit is viable. Do you want to lock your unit for another round of combat to try to wipe out a unit, or will you let them go to potentially have them come back and haunt you again?

We should also make mention of Fear and Terror causing units at this point. Again the rules have waxed and waned from too good to too useless. In 7th edition winning with a Fear causing unit was an automatic break (too good), now it’s a WS lowering trick on a failed Leadership test (not reliable and doesn’t help units that needed to rely on Fear to break opponents – like Zombies and Skeletons).

So we’ll add a basic rule. If a unit causes Fear to an enemy it counts as if they lost combat by an extra 1 for purposes of the Break Test result. Terror is an extra 2. Note that this is “counts as if”, so it only applies to the failed by results, not if you failed. For example if a unit of Empire State Troops loses combat vs. Skeletons by 3, they still pass if they get a roll on 2d6 under Ld-3, but if they fail by rolling over that target number by 2, it counts as one higher on the table to bump it from a Beaten result to a Losing Ground result.

This gives the chance to use Fear as a Combat Result weapon without it being over powering.

I feel these changes will make a more dynamic combat experience. It shouldn’t bog down too bad as there are 2 combat phases per turn. Nothing is worse than a couple of lucky (or unlucky) rolls seeing a major block of troops fleeing and getting cut down from failing a break check by a single point. This should put a stop to that.


What do you guys think? Is more dynamic combat a good interesting addition, or is it delving back into the old ‘too arcane for its own good’ style of rules?



2 thoughts on “Fixing WHFB – Combat Resolution and Fear/Terror

  1. Looks like some interesting changes, im not sure how often the push back would actually be used due to the unit sizes i see played, it seems like over half the time it would be a bad idea exposing you to extra flank charges. the fear changes look ok but maybe not effective perhaps they should apply to steadfast leadership checks instead. So if your making a check where you lost but are steadfast your leadership is lowered by one for fear or 2 for terror.


  2. Well the idea of push back is meant to be subtle. I didn’t want any of them to be the obvious choice every time. You wouldn’t be using it if you are setting yourself up for a flank, but you could use it to get a flank on a unit beside the one you push. It would be vary in use from scenario to scenario.

    Good call on the steadfast rule! I might make another post of steadfast later. Interesting idea, I’ll have to mull that one over.


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