The Rules Lawyer

"Let Slip the Dogs of Law"

Query about the rules?  Send it to the Rules Lawyer by clicking here.

  1. Is the basing used for Vis Bellica compatible with DBM or WAB?

             a)  A suggested way of using 15mm DBx bases with Vis Bellica.

   b)  A suggested way of using 6mm figures on 15mm Vis Bellica bases

   c)  A suggested way of using 25/28mm figures that allows use with Vis  Bellica and other systems.

  1. A query about combats involving more than one base.

  2. Can Close Order bases pivot and move obliquely in the same movement phase?

  3. A query on factors.

  4. How does terrain effect combat?

  5. Do Officers have to act under orders?

  6. When do bases that have charged into contact with the enemy fight their first round of melee?

  7. If a leader base is in impossible terrain when it is spotted, and that leader base contains cavalry (that can't pass through impossible terrain) what happens to them?

  8. Why can't horse archers shoot all round?

  9. A question on stakes for the English 100 Years War list given in the rules.

















Is the basing used for Vis Bellica compatible with DBM or WAB?


Not exactly what the the Rules Lawyer is expecting to adjudicate on, but a good question nevertheless.

Because Vis Bellica is an element-based system, the number of figures on each stand/base doesn't actually matter for game mechanics:  only the fact that there is something on the table representing that element.

For the player with armies based to another system there are therefore two alternatives...both of which were used during play-testing.

1)  Use cardboard, wood or metal bases cut to VB sizes and place one alternative-system-element or several alternative-system-individually-mounted-figures on top of each base to indicate what that base represents.  This works perfectly game mechanic-wise, and looks okay:  especially if the cardboard is the same colour as the mini's' base or the terrain.  

The Rules Lawyer keeps a draw full of green 60x30 bases in his VB cabinet which are used to play friends who play De Bellis or WAB and haven't yet seen the VB light to the extent of re-basing all their armies...although, given the choice, they all seem to prefer to play VB!

You can see  examples of specially-made sabot bases for Vis Bellica by visiting the Gallery.  Click here to go to the Gallery now.

2)  As long as both armies are based the same, for example to standard DBM element sizes, then just use that other system's bases instead of VB bases.  Okay, so the ground scale for the bases doesn't exactly marry with the game ground scale, but it is very easy and it does work very well.  Different depths of other systems don't actually matter very much either:  frontage being far more important.

Incidentally, a Games Workshop movement tray works very well for individually-mounted 25mm figures. 

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If I have a combat where three identical bases of mine are fighting three identical bases of my opponent, do we have to work out the combat for each individual pair of bases in turn, or can we aggregate?


Working out the combat strengths for all three of your bases at once is perfectly allowed and will speed up a game even more.  The procedure for this situation would be as follows:

Add the remaining strengths of your three bases together.

Adjust for combat factors as normal but using 3x the usual adjustment.  For example, if the enemy bases have shields, reduce your combined strength by 12 rather than 4.

Roll 2d6 for each of your three bases (you need to roll two at a time to check for "double one" or "double six" scores) and add the total.

Divide by 5 as usual, and split casualties evenly amongst the enemy bases.  Your opponent gets to assign any uneven losses.

Once both sides have worked out total casualties, the winner of the melee is the one who scored the most.  Morale checks and movement that results from winning or losing the melee apply to all bases that fought.

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Can Close Order bases pivot and move obliquely in the same movement phase?

Tim Bancroft

Yes, they can.  


The movement section of the rules states that a base is pivoted to the direction in which the player wishes it to move, becoming disordered if that direction is outside the base's frontal arc of 45° degrees.  It is then moved in a straight line forward.  The rules also state that Close Order bases, instead of only being able to move in a straight line forward, can move forward obliquely within their frontal arc.  Thus a Close Order base can pivot and move obliquely in the same movement phase.


This is particularly useful when wheeling a line of Close Order bases.  Pivot all the bases in the line 45°.  Then use their oblique movement to form a perfect line again.  More drastically, pivot the bases in the line to 90°, accepting disorder, and again use oblique movement to form as much of a perfect line as your maximum move distance allows.


Open and Skirmish Order bases can also wheel, but because each individual base in the line must move in a straight line, they will only able to form a perfect line every two turns.  At the end of the first turn, the bases would slightly pointing in different directions.

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In the example for multibase melee, shouldn't the 5 point base against Light Troops be 5+3=8 not 5+2=7? The tables within the rules show a +3 for attacking Light Troops.  The Heavy Troops factor seems to have the same problem. Or am I just thick?

Mike Parsons, Liverpool Wargames Association


No, I am!

The table is the correct  factor.  The example was written before playtesting finalised the combat factors and not corrected in the final version.

There are, unfortunately, other discrepancies between the tables and/or the text and the quick reference tables.  In all cases, the QR tables have the correct factors.

Thanks for pointing it out:  the first change for the second edition!

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How does terrain effect combat?  It seems to me that troops defending a river bank, for example, should get an advantage; and that rough and difficult terrain should effect combat somehow?



If the banks of a river mean that a defender is higher than the attacker, then the attacker gets a -3 penalty (enemy base is uphill) to their melee factors.  When placing a river on the field, it is therefore important to determine what type of terrain it is (rough, difficult and impassable) and whether the banks give the "uphill" combat advantage or not.

If Close Order troops, Cavalry and/or Chariots end a movement in difficult or impassable terrain, then they become disordered.  This means that they will almost always fight a melee in this sort of terrain disordered (-3 penalty) as the order of the relevant bits of the turn sequence is:  melee disorders then officer reorders then move disorders then melee.  Open/Skirmish Order infantry, Artillery crews and Elephants don't suffer this penalty.


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Do Officers have to act under orders?

Mike Parsons, Liverpool Wargames Association


All Officers (except for the most senior fielded) should be given orders, and must then make sure that at least half the bases under their command have the same order.  The Officer himself is free to move about and do as he wishes, but at least half his command must have the same order as he does. 

In practice, as Officers usually stick within command distance of the bases under their command, this means that they end up following their orders, but it doesn't mean, for example, that an Officer with A orders must attach himself to a charging base.  He is allowed to order that base into action and then do as he sees fit.

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When do bases that have charged into contact with the enemy fight their first round of melee?

Mike Parsons, Liverpool Wargames Association


Bases that have charged into contact with the enemy fight an immediate round of melee in the Charge sub-phase in which they first make contact with an enemy base.  If the melee is not resolved in this sub-phase (i.e. neither side routs or is destroyed) they then fight another round of melee in next turn's mandatory Melee sub-phase.

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If a leader base is in impossible terrain when it is spotted, and that leader base contains cavalry (that can't pass through impossible terrain) what happens to them?

Robin Stirzaker


A corking question, and a situation that didn't occur in playtesting.  However, with a bit of logic, easily answered...

Once spotted, the Leader base is assumed to be engaged in one of those "Panzers through the Ardennes" kind of moves:  i.e. aiming to appear where the enemy thinks it is impossible for you to get to because of the terrain.

If the Leader base had got through the Impassable terrain without being spotted, then it is assumed that the plan has succeeded, and the mounted troops deployed as normal.

In this case, however, the base hasn't managed to clear the Impassable terrain yet.  The Leader is thus caught half way through his "hauling horses up cliffs on pulleys" routine.  Place the equivalent DISMOUNTED bases in the Impassable terrain, and place appropriate Horseholder bases at the edge of the Impassable terrain at the point where the Leader base entered it.

The player then has the choice to go back and get his horses and abandon his passage, or to abandon his horses and continue as dismounted until re-united elsewhere on the field.  The Horseholder bases can attempt to join up with their dismounted colleagues in the Impassable terrain, but move as Train bases i.e. 1" per movement.

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Why can't horse archers shoot all round?

Niall Orr (et al.)


A skirmish order cavalry base represents 240-320 men, and gives an advantage to them in defense because of their mobility and spacing.  This advantage is conferred despite the fact that groundscale represents a frontage of only 15ft per horse because I have assumed that the base represents horse archers (or javelin throwers etc) at all stages of the "Parthian shot" i.e. the base represents some archers going and shooting forwards, some archers turning and shooting sideways/forwards and some archers moving away from the target shooting backwards/forwards.

Therefore, if the base wants to shoot sideways to the direction it is facing, then it has to adjust its formation through 90 degrees to show that the horsemen who were moving and shooting north-south are now moving and shooting east-west.  If it doesn't, then it no longer has the frontage to allow the horse archers to operate properly. 

The order "F" allows free movement once you are within missile range of the enemy, so you are allowed to pivot around the base's central point under movement to shoot sideways under moving fires if you want.  You can't, however, shoot 360 degrees all the time with any effect:  as, in that case, only the horse archers on the edge of the formation would be firing, and then firing without their special forwards-shoot, turn-shoot, backwards-shoot movement. 

In summary, individual horse archers can shoot all round:  but a whole base's worth of them have to be operating together and pointing the right way to shoot with effect.

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A Suggested Way of Using 15mm DBx bases with Vis Bellica

Tim Bancroft & Matthew Kirkhart


Both Tim Bancroft and Matthew Kirkhart have, separately, suggested the following way of using figures based for DBx with Vis Bellica.  In their own words:

Tim Bancroft

What's more, and probably more importantly for VB, I could easily use some pretty sabot bases to double or quadruple-base my DBM 4cm*3cm (cavalry) or 4cm*2cm (infantry) figures. 

Why not actually recommend bases which make it easy for the masses of DBM players to transfer to VB, and for those in later periods to easily transfer back to.  Whilst 8cm (double DBM) or 9cm (PoW irregular or double DBM plus space for sabot) may not exactly fit the supposed groundscale, such a compromise will make it much easier to transfer from DBM and have larger, good-looking base sizes.  At 4cm deep, such bases will support single DBM 15mm cavalry, elephants, double most DBM infantry, and would be able to support at least 3 lines of pikes, too, when rebased. 

Though a less-important point, and one which suggests a 9cm base rather than 8cm, a 9cm wide base would also allow for double or triple Chariot mounting (currently on the extra 5cm or 3 cm bases). 

As a point, anyone I play with is going to have to use 8 or 9cm anyway as we all have DBM bases and will play other gamers using DBM.  As a result, an adoption of an easy-to-convert-to 8cm or 9cm wide base will, I believe, also lead to a greater take up of VB - which in my mind is a good thing.

I don't believe this plays too much havoc with the missile and movement ranges, either.

Matthew Kirkhart

Another, more viable, solution to my problem is altering the size of the VB base.

Instead of making it 60mm x 30mm for 15mm figures, make it 80mm x 40mm.  

By doing this, one could fit at least two DBA elements on a VB stand and better approach the "chunky element" look that is so appealing.  

For example, you could get 4 stands of 40x15 or 40x20 stands on the VB element, and 2 stands of 40x30 or 40x40 stands on the VB element.  

There is something out there called an "Armati 15mm Optimal Movement Stand" that measures 84mmx34mm which is green magnetic on the top and plastic on the bottom.   I think those extra 4mm width and depth won't mean a thing on the tabletop, and these movement stands would therefore be perfect for putting the DBx based figures on to play VB.  

I just thought I would mention it because I think it could possibly make the "DBx crowd" more likely to play VB (a better game than DBA or DBM in my opinion) since they wouldn't have to re-base figures at all, they would just simply need to buy a few of these relatively inexpensive movement bases (about $1.00 US each).

The only obvious problem with this, and this is where I was looking for your feedback, is that the increase in VB stand size from 60x30 to 80x40, albeit a small one on the table top, may significantly alter the game play, which is not something I want to do.

Rules Lawyer

I don't believe that altering the standard base sizes from the technically ground-scale-correct size of 6"x3" to the easier-to-adapt-from-DBx 8"x4" will make any difference to playability.

With the change being so small, I even think that players could mix armies of 6"x3" and 8"x4"bases without causing any real problems either.

Proof of the Pudding

A quote from mawaliuk on the Vis Bellica Yahoo Group:

"Had a really great Wars of the Roses game last night...All reservations about using these rules with 80mm wide bases were unfounded, and the game went without a hitch"

And one from gorillacus2003:

"Basing conventions does not matter all that much. Unlike the DBx rules which often generate 'woogie' moves for victory, I don't see those as much of a issue with VB."

Additional Note

Thurlac suggests using 4 DBx infantry bases to also indicate the status of the base:

"After another game on Sunday, I'm convinced that you really meant to write that VB should be based using 4 DBx infantry bases:

  • Disordered:  turn one base to face the rear.

  • Shaken:  turn two bases to face the rear.

  • Shaken & Disordered:  turn three bases to face the rear.

  • Routing:  turn all four bases to face the rear.

No coloured markers need blemish the beautiful terrain.  Wonder if anyone else would find this useful?"

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A suggested way of using 6mm figures on 15mm Vis Bellica bases.

Matthew Kirkhart


More from Matthew:  this time on using 6mm figures:



Matthew Kirkhart



That said, I also broke out my Baccus 6mm figures the other day.  I have only a few painted and none based, so I decided that I would paint up the Imperial Roman and Celtic army I have and base them according to the 60x30 mm VB regular bases.  

I have to admit, I put Legionnaires 3 stands wide (60mm) and 5 stands deep (25mm) for a total of 60 figures on a 60x30 VB stand and they looked GREAT!  

I might have been able to squeeze on an additional row (6 deep instead of 5 deep) but it would be very tight and also it wouldn't leave me any room to do some scenic modeling around the edges of the base, which I want to do.  

For 6mm, I figured I would just try to follow the ratios for figures presented in the VB rules.  So, for example, CO infantry has 12 figures (I have 60 of the 6mm figures on the stand) and OO infantry has 9 figures, which is a decrease of 25%.  So, 25% of 60 figures is 15, so that would be 45 6mm figures for OO infantry.  

Given that some of the figures from Baccus that would be used OO come 4 to a strip, I could do either 44 (11 strips) or 48 (12 strips) figures so I decided on 12 strips since I could line them up evenly on the base.  Typically the general rule to follow with 6mm is "put as many on the base that look good," which is a little too "abstract" for me ... I prefer concrete rules to follow for basing figures.  So, I thought that trying to keep the ratio of figures the same for the 15mm and 6mm basing.

Rules Lawyer

I've always liked the Baccus figures:  especially based en masse.  I can't wait to see the photo's Matthew promised:  should look good!

Readers can visit Baccus' website by clicking here or via the Links section. 

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The English 100 Years War Army List allows stakes.  However I can find no information on their effect or how to set them in the rules.   Am I being thick or is this an omission?

John Hill et alia


Stakes are treated as Light Works (pp 21) in that they are “hastily constructed, usually impermanent obstacles”.  English or Welsh Archers carry stakes that they can emplace across their frontage as Light Works.  

Any English or Welsh Archers that have Hold orders can place or pull up these stakes during the movement phase.  The stakes cover the frontage of one base (6") and are only effective once placed and remain stationary until pulled up.  Archers carry only one set of stakes per base.

The third book of army lists (due out early autumn) will make this clearer than the quick list given in the main rules.

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A suggested way of using 25/28mm figures that allows use with Vis  Bellica and other systems.

Randall Eaton


After a similar long deliberation this is exactly what I'm doing too. All my new 28mms are mounted 3 or 4 on a 60x30 base. This lets me use them with just about every set (WAB, Piquet, AW/MW) in existence. 

For Vis the groundscale for 28's is a 12cm x 6cm base. This is 4 60x30 bases, just the same setup as for 15's! <grin>

The stands won't follow the OO/CO fig numbers (sorry Robert!) but I like to see
lots of figs on the table anyway so I'll just deal with that.  SO stands come out to 8
figs but they're obviously skirmishers then!  OO stands end up with 12-16 models and CO with 20.  Still enough to visually figure out what's what.  And in the end it's all right there on the command sheet anyway.

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Copyright © 2002  Robert Avery. All rights reserved.
Revised: November 21, 2003 .