StrifeLords is a rules system for 25mm fantasy miniatures wargaming that emphasizes playability, yet captures all the drama and excitement of melee combat, heroic adventure and wizardry.

The heart of StrifeLords is the combat system, which is simple enough to make large-scale battles manageable, yet realistically structured to capture the flavor of melee combat and make even a small battle tense and challenging. Players mount their wargaming figures on stands as units that roughly represent "companies." The basic characteristics of each unit are summarized by four factors: armor class, attack class, movement rate and morale level. When units are joined in combat a simple chart gives the damage caused by melee action or missile fire by cross-referencing the attackerís attack class to the defenderís armor class. No dice are rolled for combat results, removing the element of luck from combat and placing greater emphasis on tactical maneuver and generalship. The player is challenged to deploy and move his forces as skillfully as possible in order to maximize enemy losses while minimizing the losses of his own forces.

Although combat results are not based on chance, initiative is randomly determined during each phase of a game turn. This creates an additional challenge for players and adds a heightened sense of tension and anticipation to the combat system. Winning the initiative may allow a player to make a long-awaited frontal assault, while loss of the initiative might unexpectedly prove to be to his advantage as his troops suddenly find inviting targets in range with their flanks exposed. The unique move/countermove system enhances the feel of melee combat as new forces are committed, charges strike home and flank and rear attacks hit.

In the StrifeLords game system each stand in a unit is listed on a special roster sheet to record losses and current endurance points. All stands start the battle with an equal number of endurance points. How quickly these points are lost depends completely on the skill of the players. As stands take losses in combat, points are deducted from the roster, and the morale of the unit begins to decline. Battles see-saw as hard-hit units give ground, or break and run on each side. Some units fight to the last man, defiant to the bitter end.

Units with better armor classes lose points more slowly and have more staying power than lightly-armored troops. Heavier weapons such as polearms and two-handed swords cause heavier losses, while flank, rear and winged attacks add bonuses to damage inflicted and underline the importance of effective maneuver. A player who advances light infantry against fully-armored knights with poleaxes can only hope to buy a little time at the cost of heavy casualties . . . but perhaps victory is almost in sight on the other flank. The roster system makes casualty scoring simple and also shows the remaining strength of a unit at a glance, as well as the overall strength of the whole army.

The StrifeLords game system was expressly designed for fantasy wargaming, from the occasional miniatures battle to fantasy campaigns. Although the rules could be used for historical and fictional-historical battles, the true virtue of the game system is its careful incorporation of the elements of high fantasy: monsters, heroes and magic. The combat system was designed with the flexibility necessary to allow players to field units of monsters as well as men, including giants, dragons, war beasts and fantasy war machines. Many wargamers will find that fantasy collections that previously gathered dust on s shelf because no good rules existed for their use can now be enjoyed. Trolls, minotaurs, valkyries and unicorn-mounted cavalry suddenly come to life as they are committed to battle and locked in epic struggle.

StrifeLords includes a complete magic system with three levels of magical spells for mages and three levels of acts of faith for clerics. The range of spells is amazingly extensive and diverse, yet totally manageable, being carefully scaled into the game system and internally consistent with the rules for combat. A unique initiative system adds tension to magical combat as spells and counterspells interweave with deadly effect. In addition, a full range of magical weapons, amulets, wands, staves and many special fantasy items have been worked into the game system, allowing a player the full use of a favorite wizard, cleric or warrior figure.

StrifeLords includes many optional rules that allow players to expand their fantasy games and make them more complex. These rules include explanations about the purpose of the options, when it is appropriate to include them and what additional materials or preparations may be necessary. Among the optional rules are rules for command control, control of monster units, siege warfare and a framework for running campaigns. The game system also allows players to balance their armies for occasional wargame where an exact point balance is desired.

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