Warhammer: The Old World’s Combat Phase Introduces a Highly Mobile Battlefield

Games Workshop, via their Warhammer Community site, revealed the movement rules for Warhammer: The Old World, an upcoming miniature wargame which returns to the setting, flavor, and rules of the original Warhammer Fantasy Battles.

Unlike Warhammer 40,000, and the many wargames inspired by it, Warhammer: The Old World builds on the bones of historical wargaming: most soldiers move in ranked units, and one of your goals as a player is to prevent being flanked or ambushed. Another change of pace is that ranged weapons are rarer, but decimating.

This Warhammer Community update discussed ranged combat. You can find our overview of the movement phase and formations here, and our overview of the shooting phase here.

Rules Overview

Like every phase, the fourth and final phase of a round is divided into four steps:

  1. Choose & Fight
  2. Calculate Result
  3. Break Test
  4. Pursuit

The phase begins by choose which combat to engage in first. Fighting happens in ranks, and generally only the first rank of an engaged unit can fight. Long-ranked units can surround a smaller regiment. However, some models may make attacks from a deeper rank, multiple units can be engaged in the same combat, and any that is able to fight without being in base contact may only make one attack this turn.

Which model strikes first is decided by Initiative. All units attack from highest Initiative to lowest, in order, with a bonus for charging and a still larger bonus for striking from the flank or rear.

There could still be a situation, however, in which a lumbering foe like a Stone Troll (Initiative 1) may find itself striking second on the charge against the preternatural senses of a Swordmaster of Hoeth (Initiative 6).

Warhammer Community

The classic Weapon Skill stat returns. The higher this is, the better your chance of a successful strike; these rolls are performed against the target. To aid calculations, the To Hit Chart is back.

Image Credit: Warhammer Community

The active player rolls dice equal to their unit’s number of attacks. After a successful attack, players roll to wound and make armor saves “as normal.”

Combats in Warhammer: The Old World are usually decisive – one side or the other makes the breakthrough, and the loser is pushed back or breaks. Unlike in other Warhammer games, you don’t flee based on your Leadership alone; you have to calculate the Combat Result – in other words, you work out who’s won by totting up who’s killed who.

It’s not just how many deaths you’ve caused, however – you get bonuses for complete ranks, for having the high ground, for standard bearers, and for attacking the side or rear.

Warhammer Community

If it’s a draw, combat continues the following turn. If there is a clear lower, they must make a Break Test. This is a Leadership test modified by the number the player lost by, with three possible results.

  1. If the natural roll is higher than the Leadership stat of the testing unit’s leader (either that of its Champion or of a Hero model that’s joined it), then the unit Breaks and Flees
  2. If the modified roll is higher than the Leadership stat, but the natural roll is lower, the unit Falls Back in Good Order
  3. If the modified roll is lower than the Leadership stat, or if you roll a double 1, the unit Gives Ground

This is a combination

When a player wins a fight, they have a range of choices depending on how the enemy reacts:

  1. Restrain – pass a Leadership test to avoid pursuit and instead reform your ranks for free.
  2. Follow Up a unit that gave ground, re-entering combat a few inches forward
  3. Pursue a unit that flees or falls back. If you catch a fleeing unit, it’s cut down. and destroyed. If you catch a unit falling back, combat begins again and the pursuer counts as having charged.
  4. Overrun – in the case that the victor has completely killed its target, it may make a full move directly forward… and if you end up in another combat, that counts as a fresh charge. Clever use of Overruns will have heavy cavalry licking its lips…

There are a number of magic spells which can be cast during this phase, but only a two example spells have been released to date.


The combat phase makes many changes that are inspired by earlier editions of Warhammer Fantasy Battles and spin-offs (as before, elements are familiar to those who played Warhammer Ancient Battles). Many of these changes will be welcomed by players.

The biggest question is how long lines will be allowed to stretch, what penalties will be imposed for overstretching, and how oppressive this may make armies composed of thin lines of infantry. This was one of the elements that hobbled later editions of Warhammer Fantasy Battles, and ushered it to its demise: armies were expensive as players were expected to buy rows of low-cost infantry, and the meta playstyle was distinctly not fun.

If this problem is solved, Warhammer: The Old World may be the best edition of the game. If this problem is not solved, the problems that killed the original game are present from the start. This is the biggest worry, but I hope the designers have taken this into account.

In better news, these rules seem designed to sustain a highly mobile battlefield. It seems rare for the clash of units to last more than one turn, as they dynamically give and gain ground. I’m not sure if a total suppression of “occupy units with chafe” strategies is for the best, but it does keep seem primed to keep strategy at the forefront. It will be interesting to see this develop.

If certain units find their stats similar or unchanged, particularly hardy units will find themselves able to be pushed back but almost never broken. This does seem to be a great way to incorporate the lore of famously unbreakable units.

All of these rules together, particularly the return of both ballistic and weapon skill, mean that it’s possible older editions of the roleplaying game may be broadly compatible with the miniature game again. It remains to be seen how the math works out, but it’s possible your Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e characters can cross back and forth once again. It seems as though skill percentages can be safely rounded to the nearest 10.

Lastly, Games Workshop no longer credits model designers, painters, and some writers by name. This is unacceptable. As the creative force that keeps the company running, the creators responsible deserve full, clear, and public credit.

Source: Warhammer Community

Featured Image: Warhammer Community

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