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The Art of War (2008)

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TITLE (YEAR): The Art of War, Tactical Warfare in Miniature for Pre-Gunpowder Armies (1984 to 2008)Art of War02

AUTHOR: Doug Larsen and Rocky Russo

PUBLISHER: Doug Larsen and Rocky Russo.



  • Online Forum: http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/theartofwar_rules/
  • Website: www.1066.us

PRICE (with date):$10.00 e-book version (PDF format); $35.00 hardcopy version. (2008)



  • Ancients, Summerians to the Viking Age (2800 B. C. to c. 1066 A. D.)
  • Medievals, Hastings to the Swiss wars (c. 1066 A. D. to c. 1500 A. D.)


Basic rules, plus a Crusades mini-campaign appendix including 9 armies lists: 62 pages. The Basic Rules are comprehensive, and include siege warfare rules and rules for special weapons such as elephants, chariots and pavises. Spiral bind, photocopy, black and white interior, full color cover. Standard 15mm to 40mm frontages used: no rebasing of figurines required. (Although singly-based miniatures work best, multiple-figurine bases work OK in most situations.) Plus 84 additional pages of seven period appendices listing over 160 more armies:

  • Greek & Macedonian Armies
  • Ancient Armies of the Bronze Age
  • Ancient Armies of the Iron Age
  • Ancient Roman and Italian Armies
  • European Dark Ages Armies 500 to 1000 A. D.
  • European Medieval Armies 1000 to 1460 A. D.
  • Chinese, Huns, Mongols and Japanese Armies


The Art of War is a battlefield level game with each base representing a "company" of men (and horses), ranging in size from 30 to 100 men each. The approach of the game design is to allow play of historical battles on the scale historical terrain.


  • Whatever the period allows for; usually a few thousand up to 20,000-plus to a side. This is typically an army of a few score bases up to 300 bases or more.


  • The most typical sized unit is 250 to 1,000 men or larger, which is reresented by four to 16 bases or more.


  • Ground Scale 1” = 10 yards.
  • Time Scale 1 Turn = 30 seconds.
  • Figure/Base Ratio: Variable but generally 1 stand (base) = 1 company of 30 to 100 men (and horses)
  • Recommended Figure: any up to 30mm (or can be played without miniatures at all, by using bases like a boardgame's unit markers).
  • Table Size: 4’ x 8’ will give a good battle area.
  • Game Length: typically two to four hours.


15mm to 30mm frontages; 20mm to 25mm depth for infantry, 40mm to 50mm depth for cavalry. Depth can be increased for larger models.


  • Semi-sequential, with a 1d6 roll at the beginning of each turn for "initiative", allowing the side possessing "initiative" to decide who moves first. "Automatic moves" move first, then voluntary moves are divided into two movement "impulses." Missile-fire combat is resolved; melee combat is resolved; morale is tested. This completes one game turn.


Command and Control: is regulated by both minimum-allowed unit size and total number of units allowed a given army.

Morale: is tested for each unit that takes 25% casualties; for seeing other friendly units rout; for receiving a cavalry or chariot charge (or some phalanx charges), etc. There are exceptions outlined in each army list. Individual bases are also required to test morale in close combat when the result so indicates.

Fire Combat: missile fire is performed by rolling 2d6 for each shooting base; the missile fire tables indicate which number or better is needed to score a "hit" on a target of a given armor rating and at a given range. The shooting base scores as many hits on the enemy unit being targetted as the total men shooting: ex. three 60-men bases scoring hits causes 180 casualties on the targetted unit; and casualties are removed in whole bases, with any remainder rounded up to the next whole base. (A full description of how this works would be required, so a shortened version is not given here.)

Close Combat: is resolved base-to-base with 2d6; the base with the highest combined combat value is defined as the "Attacker". Results are compared on the combat results table, and the combat is either "no effect", or a Defender or Attacker base is pushed back or eliminated; some "back" results also require a morale test immediately on the pushed back base.

ARMY LISTS/SCENARIOS: as described above, there are 9 army lists in the Crusader appendix and over 160 additional more in the historical period appendices.


As coauthor and codesigner, my opinion is naturally biased. But neither Rocky Russo or myself enjoys much playing of rules designed by other people; the reasons are two: we feel we understand more and better (at least to our mutual satisfaction), what the armies in the periods covered were capable of and how they worked; and we prefer our "skirmish feel" game design to the multiple basing and abstract rules so frequently employed by other game systems. We design rules to directly replicate reality as much as seems possible for a game. Our game plays to reflect the weapons systems and tactics as revealed by historical evidence and the original sources. For instance, we throw pila, charge with couched lances, differentiate between single stave self-bows and composite "Steppes" bows, and consider the tactical differences that weapon systems combined with the level of drill and organization allow a given army. We like quick and bloody games, and we like to see our miniatures "perform" as the individual "men" that they appear to be in the battle, while at the same time realizing that each miniature is really a company of men that it represents the typical appearance of.


The game's combat and movement tables are on one side of a single 8.5 x 11 inch sheet. Complexity is designed into what the armies can do and cannot do. Actual play is simple and very quick, facilitated by the lack of abstraction. The game visually shows what is going on (as much as possible, considering the "medium" of playing with miniatures), minimizing the need to interpret unseen factors into what is displayed turn-by-turn on the table top.

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