Mechanics Lab – Super Simple Universal Skirmish Rules: Groblins vs Elves

Often a throwaway line in a ruleset can have massive ramifications, or in other words – no ruleset has throwaway lines!

While setting up for playtesting I read the deployment rules:

Five shrines are placed before the game. Place a single shrine in the centre of the playing area. Player’s then place two shrines each anywhere in the playing area.

Shrines are very important by the way. My thoughts on this rule were simple enough, place the shrines wherever you want because if you don’t know where your forces are deploying yet you won’t risk screwing yourself over, so players will most likely place them in a fair way.

What I hadn’t considered is that players with melee heavy armies will benefit massively when shrines are closer together and the rules aren’t defined enough to stop abuse in this way.

The Groblins:

The Groblins have 12 fighters:

The Boss – Might 5, Commanding, Piercing, Tough.

The Shaman – Might 5, Protective Aura, Ethereal.

5 Kneecappers – Might 1, Piercing.

5 Splinterspitters – Might 1, Gun.

They’re mostly an exercise in seeing if a horde is bad or overpowered in the current rules. I’m also eyeing up some of Irregular’s trolls or big robots to see if very few figures, maybe three maximum is viable too. The Shaman’s protective aura is a 3” bubble of -1 to hit and Ethereal means rolls of 2 or 3 cannot hurt him, making him fairly tanky. The Boss’ Commanding rule means that any friendly fighters that activate within 3” of him can add 1 to their actions roll.

The Elves are as they were last time (although some of the rules are differently named):

Elf Leader – Might 10, Fast Attack, Explosive, Collector.

Mage – Might 10, Gun, Piercing, Fast Attack.

3 Swordsmen – Might 5, Fast Attack.

2 Archers – Might 5, Gun.

Some of the names of rules have changed due to a single big change in the rules. That being that there is how no real distinction between melee or ranged combat. Fighters can only attack enemies in base to base contact unless they have the gun rule that allows ranged attacks. Before Full Auto allowed you to reroll 1s and 2s when shooting and Berserk did the same for melee attacks, they have both been replaced by the more generic Fast Attack that works for both. This has allowed me to reduce the number of current special rules dramatically and so I can fit in other potentially more interesting rules. The trade off though is that you can no longer shut down the heavy shooter by just charging them.

Two other rules have come into play to temper this though. A fighter can now only attack the closest visible enemy. This simple change has increased tactical decision making in game and before the game dramatically as you now have the option to screen out enemy fighters from your weaker but maybe more useful fighters.

Both forces square off on the mysterious plain:

I’ve gotten rid of Command tokens and and sticking solely to Fate now, as what I initially thought was an interesting problem to have really wasn’t in play. Instead of starting with 1 Fate per fighter both sides begin with 6 each. Fate is now much more powerful for two changes:

A player can spend a Fate token to reroll one of their own die rolls or they can spend one Fate token to increase the value rolled on any of their one of their dice by 1. A die can only be rerolled once but can be increased multiple times.

Where as before you could spend one fate to reroll all of you dice and you had to reroll all, you can now be specific. Secondly:

The game ends after the fourth round. Each player is awarded 1 Victory point per Fate token they have and two per enemy fighter killed. The player with the most victory points wins.

Round one saw the Groblins advancing in full force and protecting their weak kneecappers and Splinterspitters with good positioning, the fact that fighters can only attack the closest enemy is seriously great! The Boss being Tough and within 3” of the Shaman’s Protective Aura meant he could only be damaged on rolls of 6 by any Elf archers or swordsmen so he took the brunt of Elf attacks.

In a rather unlikely turn of events a Splinterspitter managed to kill an Elf archer by rolling a 6 for his actions, immediately making 6 attacks against an Elf archer, rolling four 6s and using two Fate to turn a 4 into a 6 killing the Elf.

Round two saw five Groblins fall, and only one more Elf.

Round three was even worse for the Groblins.

And it was at this point that I realised I had made a catastrophic error in building them. By having both the Kneecappers and Splinterspitters have a special rule I was spending half of their forces points on nothing much. This is definitely not how to build a horde force. Instead of Might 1, Piercing had I simply gone for Might 3. The Kneecappers would have been half their current points and just as effective against the Elves! Freeing up 15 points for special rules or additional Might for the Shaman or Boss! The Splinterspitters will continue to be an issue since the Gun rule costs 5 and the whole point of them is to shoot. Maybe if the Spitters were Might 4, Gun (using the spare 15 from the Kneecappers) that could work. Then they’d hit the Elves on a 5+ instead of the 6+ they’re currently struggling with.

Predictably the end of round 4 saw the Groblins get tabled. It’s not their fault, it’s mine for building them so poorly. I might have to rework them, then allow the Elves to make any changes and try things again.

The Final score was Elves and 39, Groblins 10 as they had managed to kill four Elves, so as I said despite my bad tactics they performed admirably.

Anyway here are the current rules for those interested much simplified but I do think bettered:


Players gather a warband each, each warband is made up of a number of figures, each figure is referred to as a fighter.  Fighters have a stat called Might and then usually one or two special rules.


Games are played on a 24”x24” board. Firstly five shrines are placed. Place a single Shrine in the centre of the playing area. Player’s then alternately place a shrine each anywhere on the board until there are five shrines. Roll off to decide who places first. No shrine can be placed within 6” of another. The player that placed the last shrine chooses which deployment zone they would like and deploys their fighters. The opposing player then deploys their fighters in the opposite deployment zone. Deployment zones are within 6” of a chosen board edge.


Before the game begins each player is given 6 Fate tokens.

A player can spend a fate token to reroll one of their own die rolls or a player can spend one fate token to increase the value rolled on one of their dice by 1. Each die can only be rerolled once but can be increased multiple times.


The game is played in rounds. Each round is broken up into two phases – Fate, Activations.


Each player gains 1 Fate token for each shrine that is within 3” of at least one of their fighters.


Players roll a die each and the higher roller takes the first activation. Player’s then alternately activate a single fighter each until all of the fighters in play have been activated once. When one player runs out of fighters to activate their opponent can activate all of their remaining fighters consecutively. When a fighter is activated they are allowed D6 actions.


A fighter can move up to 2” per action spent on movement. Fighters cannot move through other fighters and should use terrain in a way that makes sense.


A fighter can only attack enemies that are not in base to base contact if they have the ‘Gun’ special rule. A fighter must attack their closest visible enemy. A fighter can only attack one enemy per activation.

To hit their target the fighter must pass an attack check, using their starting Might stat. Compare the attacker’s starting Might stat to the target’s starting Might and roll 1D6 on the table below per action spent on the attack:

The Attacker’s Might is…


If one or more hits are achieved the target fighter’s Might is halved (rounding up fractions) or they lose 1 might per hit scored, whichever value is higher. When a fighter’s Might value is reduced to 0 they are killed and removed from play.

If the fighter was making a ranged attack and their target was not 100% visible to them then the target has cover, reduce the value on all of their dice rolled in the attack by 1.

Regardless of any rules a natural 6 always counts as a hit and a natural 1 always fails.


The game ends after the fourth round. Each player is awarded 1 Victory point per Fate Token they have and 2 per enemy fighter killed.

The player with the most Victory points wins.


Bad Aura – When an enemy fighter activates within 3” of this fighter reduce the roll to determine their number of actions by 1.

Fast Attack – When this figure makes attacks you can reroll any natural 1s and 2s.

Split Attack – This fighter can attack more than one enemy per activation.

Explosive  – When this figure makes an attack each natural 6 rolled counts as two hits.

Collector – During the Fate phase if this fighter is within 3” of a shrine you gain two Fate tokens from that shrine.

Commanding – When a friendly fighter activates within 3” of this fighter increase the roll to determine their number of actions by 1. This rule does not affect this fighter.

Ensnaring – A fighter in base to base contact with this fighter cannot move away. This fighter can choose to move away.

Ethereal – This fighter cannot be hit on rolls of 2 or 3.

Fast – This fighter can move 4” per action spent on movement.

Gun – This figure can make ranged attacks.

Healer – When this fighter is in base to base contact with a friendly fighter they can attempt to heal them. Roll a die for each Action spent and on a 4+ increase the target’s Might by 1. The target cannot have more than their starting Might.

Piercing – When this fighter makes attacks add 1 to their die rolls.

Protective Aura (10 points) – When any friendly fighter within 3” of this fighter is attacked reduce all of the attacker’s rolls by 1. This fighter is also protected by its own Aura.

Push – When this fighter attacks an enemy fighter for each hit caused the enemy fighter moves directly away from this fighter 1”.

Skilled – Add 1 to this fighters Action roll.

Sneak – This fighter can move through other fighters.

Tough – When this fighter is attacked reduce all of the attacker’s rolls by 1.

Vampiric – Each time this fighter causes a hit on an enemy in base to baser contact this fighter regains a lost Might. This fighter cannot have more than their starting Might.


The cost of a fighter is equal to their might value. A standard game is 100 points and you can have a maximum of 16 fighters. Each special rule costs 5 points unless stated otherwise.

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