AD&D Battlesystem

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AD&D Battlesystem

Postby Havard » Wed Aug 16, 2017 6:49 pm

Anyone used this system? What are the differences between the (two?) editions?

D&D Skirmish Systems
  • (Original) Chainmail (1st, 2nd, 3rd Edition)
  • AD&D 1st Edition Battlesystem
  • AD&D 2nd Edition Battlesystem
  • AD&D 2nd Edition Battlesystem: Skirmishes (Discussion)
  • Chainmail (D20)
  • D&D Miniatures (D20) (Discussion)
  • D&D Attack Wing

D&D Mass Combat Rules
  • War Machine (BECMI, Companion Set)
  • Sea Machine (BECMI, Dawn of the Emperors)
  • Ierendi Sea Battles (BECMI, Gaz4)
  • OrcWars (BECMI, Gaz10, Dragon #?)
  • Battle Cards System (AD&D Birthright) -- Discussion

Other Related Sourcebooks
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes of Battle

See also:
List of AD&D Battlesystem Scenarios
RPGs with Connected Miniatures Rules
D&D Based Board Games

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Re: AD&D Battle System

Postby Boneguard » Wed Aug 16, 2017 8:42 pm

I own the original box (as well as the Bloodstone adventure serie). Battlesystem is a good mass combat system that integrates fairly well the element of AD&D into it. Your units were divided in groups of the same troops (orcs, swordmen, cavalry, Archer, etc.) And heroes (single figure) such as the PCs or commanders.

A few adventures, like the above mentioned modules and Maztica boxset made use of it for mass combat between 2 armies
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Re: AD&D Battle System

Postby Morfie » Thu Aug 17, 2017 8:23 am

I didn't know there were 2 editions of Battle System.. was there one for AD&D and one for 2e?

(Preferred War Machine myself)
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Re: AD&D Battle System

Postby Khedrac » Thu Aug 17, 2017 8:48 am

I would disagree with calling it a "Mass Combat System". From what I saw it was more of a miniatures wargame designed to handle small armies.
Any system that uses one token per character present isn't a real "Mass Combat System" in my book.

Off topic: War Machine - the Companion/RC D&D wargame is a mass combat system with one token per army/troop; but I don't like Sea Machine (the naval variant from M1) because too much detail is needed on each ship to work out their statistics.
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Re: AD&D Battle System

Postby Big Mac » Thu Aug 17, 2017 1:20 pm

I never used either version of Battlesystem, but I am now interested in it and how similar it is to the original Chainmail, the 3rd Edition Chainmail and the DDM (Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures) rules that followed the second version of Chainmail.

I think this is an important area of D&D that has been somewhat neglected in certain editions.

I would have liked to have seen something akin to a "Battlesystem SRD" during the 3rd Edition era and a bunch of retroclones designed to tie wargaming in with any type of D&D (or retroclone) rules.
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Re: AD&D Battle System

Postby Boneguard » Thu Aug 17, 2017 1:35 pm

Khedrac wrote:I would disagree with calling it a "Mass Combat System". From what I saw it was more of a miniatures wargame designed to handle small armies.
Any system that uses one token per character present isn't a real "Mass Combat System" in my book.


1 token per character is only for heroes/commander. Regular troops were represented by 1 token per troops (10 men IIRC) so you could have fairly substantial army facing each other with this system
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Re: AD&D Battle System

Postby maddog » Thu Aug 17, 2017 1:38 pm

Played a couple of the scenarios from DL8 with the original system. It was fun, but frankly, as a mass combat system it kinda sucks. We found it just difficult to use and understand. That may be because we were teens at the time. I didn't know there was a 2e version of it either.

@Khedrac, IIRC, each token represented more than one character. I want to say 10 characters for units. You may be thinking of the skirmishers which were often one character, but big, BIG characters like giants.

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Re: AD&D Battle System

Postby timemrick » Fri Aug 18, 2017 4:38 am

I used to own the original boxed set, but rarely if ever used the rules.

I did, however, get a great deal of use out of the cardboard counters, back in the days before I had enough minis (or LEGO) to represent most of the creatures they included. (I think I ran most of my college AD&D campaign with just those counters!) And even after I had built up a better mini collection, I still got a lot of mileage out of the "peasant" and generic "monster" counters for things that weren't worth finding a real mini for.
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Re: AD&D Battle System

Postby Khedrac » Fri Aug 18, 2017 9:12 am

Boneguard wrote:1 token per character is only for heroes/commander. Regular troops were represented by 1 token per troops (10 men IIRC) so you could have fairly substantial army facing each other with this system

That's a lot better than I thought - thank-you for the correction. It makes it a system for fighting out a battle though and not a war - different systems for different purposes.
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Re: AD&D Battle System

Postby Havard » Fri Aug 18, 2017 12:20 pm

Big Mac wrote:I never used either version of Battlesystem, but I am now interested in it and how similar it is to the original Chainmail, the 3rd Edition Chainmail and the DDM (Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures) rules that followed the second version of Chainmail.


Indeed, I was thinking about the same thing:

EDIT: List of Mass Combat Systems moved to OP


I think this is an important area of D&D that has been somewhat neglected in certain editions.


Indeed. Some editions and some campaigns tend to focus mostly on the core aspects of D&D such as dungeon/Wilderness exploration. But some areas that have been around since the beginning, but are often forgotten about are:
1) Warfare
2) Building Strongholds
3) Running Baronies/Dominions
4) High Level/Epic Level play
5) Becoming Demigods, Immortality etc.

When it comes to Warfare, I think each DM and group need to decide how detailed they want to run things. I dont think you need to get into too complicated rules if your group is mostly interested in the character scale side of things, but that doesn't mean war should not play a role of the campaign. Wars have for the most part been the natural state of things through most of our history, so it seems natural that this should be the case for D&D campaigns as well.

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Re: AD&D Battle System

Postby Havard » Fri Aug 18, 2017 12:28 pm

Morfie wrote:I didn't know there were 2 editions of Battle System.. was there one for AD&D and one for 2e?


Yes, I believe the 2nd Edition was updated to be used for 2nd Edition AD&D.
The second edition of Battlesystem became available in the form of two books called Battlesystem (1989) and Battlesystem Skirmishes (1991).

Does anyone know how may later sourcebooks referenced Battlesystem? I know Dragon Kings (Dark Sun) did include elements for use with Battle System. Also, some of the Bloodstone modules? Anything else?

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Re: AD&D Battle System

Postby Khedrac » Fri Aug 18, 2017 1:21 pm

Havard wrote:D&D Skirmish Systems
  • (Original) Chainmail (1st, 2nd, 3rd Edition)
  • AD&D Battle System 1st Edition
  • AD&D Battle System 2nd Edition
  • Chainmail (D20)

D&D Mass Combat Rules
  • War Machine (BECMI, Companion Set)
  • Sea Machine (BECMI, Dawn of the Emperors

Other Related Sourcebooks
  • Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures Handbook
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes of Battle

I think there is a good argument for the 3.5 miniatures game (from Miniatures Handbook) counting as another Skirmish system. Pretty much all the 3rd Ed plastic miniatures came with stats for that system (as well as the noromal game stats) and I think there were a few products expressly for it (scenario maps). I would calls the MH as primarily a separate miniatures system with a small amount of additional 3.5 stuff. Heroes of Battle is, as you say, "just" a related sourcebook.

There is also the naval combat system from Gaz 4 - but I don't know if it counts as Mass Combat or what - I suppose it is as much of a mass combat system than Sea Machine so Mass Combat then.
The biggest problem with it is the lack of rules for how to work out a ship's stats.

Further, what about OrcWars (Dragon/Gaz10)? In many ways it is a D&D wargame (though one with no rules for adapting to other circumstances).

As for other BattleSystem references, I am sure that I saw some things that suggested that it could be used, but I have no idea where - quite possibly in stuff from Dragon?
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Re: AD&D Battle System

Postby agathokles » Fri Aug 18, 2017 1:26 pm

There is also the AD&D 2e Birthright card-based system which covers a middle ground between War Machine and Battle System. Units are around 200 strong, and the system is designed to handle small armies (2000-3000 strong at most), with abstract positioning.

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Re: AD&D Battle System

Postby Havard » Fri Aug 18, 2017 2:06 pm

Khedrac wrote:I think there is a good argument for the 3.5 miniatures game (from Miniatures Handbook) counting as another Skirmish system. Pretty much all the 3rd Ed plastic miniatures came with stats for that system (as well as the noromal game stats) and I think there were a few products expressly for it (scenario maps). I would calls the MH as primarily a separate miniatures system with a small amount of additional 3.5 stuff. Heroes of Battle is, as you say, "just" a related sourcebook.


Interesting! I could never muster much interest in the Miniatures Handbook. That makes sense though.

There is also the naval combat system from Gaz 4 - but I don't know if it counts as Mass Combat or what - I suppose it is as much of a mass combat system than Sea Machine so Mass Combat then.
The biggest problem with it is the lack of rules for how to work out a ship's stats.


Good point. I will include this system too.

Further, what about OrcWars (Dragon/Gaz10)? In many ways it is a D&D wargame (though one with no rules for adapting to other circumstances).


I never actually played this game, but yeah I think you are right. The map/board caused a lot of amusement for my group back in our teenage days :)

As for other BattleSystem references, I am sure that I saw some things that suggested that it could be used, but I have no idea where - quite possibly in stuff from Dragon?


It kept coming up. If there were scenarios for Battlesystem in Dragon or Dungeon it would be interesting to find out about it.


agathokles wrote:There is also the AD&D 2e Birthright card-based system which covers a middle ground between War Machine and Battle System. Units are around 200 strong, and the system is designed to handle small armies (2000-3000 strong at most), with abstract positioning.


Good point. Birthright's system should definitely be included.

There was also the Greyhawk Wars game, which seems to be yet another system/independent game?

More supplements with Battlesystem material:
Edit: Moved to a separate thread



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Re: AD&D Battle System

Postby Khedrac » Fri Aug 18, 2017 4:37 pm

agathokles wrote:There is also the AD&D 2e Birthright card-based system which covers a middle ground between War Machine and Battle System. Units are around 200 strong, and the system is designed to handle small armies (2000-3000 strong at most), with abstract positioning.
Nice - I was unaware of that one.

Havard wrote:More supplements with Battlesystem material:
  • AD&D Castles
    • Hart (Greyhawk)
    • Drungar (Dragonlance: Taladas) -- More details
    • Darkhold (Forgotten Realms)
  • I14 Swords of the Iron Legion (Forgotten Realms)
  • X10 Red Arrow Black Shield (Mystara, both Battlesystem and BECMI options)
  • H1 Bloodstone Pass (H1),
  • H2 The Mines of Bloodstone (H2)
  • H3 The Bloodstone Wars (H3)
  • Dragon Kings (Dark Sun)

If you are going to list H1 to H3 individually, then you also need to list H4 Throne of Bloodstone which, whilst not requiring BattleSystem to be run, did use it for quite a lot of encounters (party v. 100 demons guarding the gate etc.).
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Re: AD&D Battlesystem

Postby ghendar » Fri Aug 18, 2017 4:55 pm

Back in the day, I preferred Mentzer's mass battle rules from the Companion Set. However, it's been a very long time since I looked at those rules
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Re: AD&D Battle System

Postby Havard » Sat Aug 19, 2017 12:59 pm

Khedrac wrote:If you are going to list H1 to H3 individually, then you also need to list H4 Throne of Bloodstone which, whilst not requiring BattleSystem to be run, did use it for quite a lot of encounters (party v. 100 demons guarding the gate etc.).


Thanks! I did a quick scan of H4, but I guess I missed those references. Will add it to the list! :)

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Re: AD&D Battlesystem

Postby Havard » Sat Aug 19, 2017 1:00 pm

I don't have my gazetteers at hand right now, but doesn't the Golden Khan of Ethengar Gazetteer (Mystara) include quite a bit of Battlesystem references?

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Re: AD&D Battle System

Postby Big Mac » Sat Aug 19, 2017 1:31 pm

Havard wrote:
Big Mac wrote:I think this is an important area of D&D that has been somewhat neglected in certain editions.


Indeed. Some editions and some campaigns tend to focus mostly on the core aspects of D&D such as dungeon/Wilderness exploration. But some areas that have been around since the beginning, but are often forgotten about are:
1) Warfare
2) Building Strongholds
3) Running Baronies/Dominions
4) High Level/Epic Level play
5) Becoming Demigods, Immortality etc.

When it comes to Warfare, I think each DM and group need to decide how detailed they want to run things. I dont think you need to get into too complicated rules if your group is mostly interested in the character scale side of things, but that doesn't mean war should not play a role of the campaign. Wars have for the most part been the natural state of things through most of our history, so it seems natural that this should be the case for D&D campaigns as well.


I think it would have been nice to have had some level of consistency in these things. There have been several editions of Manual of the Planes for example, that have continued the same thing (as well as introducing edition changes). It would have been nice to have seen some other areas of D&D have some better continuity.

As for the "Warfare" side, I think this ties in well with miniatures combat gaming. It might not be the primary business of D&D, but if you can get shops to stock a ton of miniatures for wargamers, those miniatures become available for mainstream D&D gaming. So I think it's worth the effort.

I could say something about the other areas of gameplay you mentioned, but they probably all deserve their own topics. :P
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Re: AD&D Battle System

Postby Big Mac » Sat Aug 19, 2017 1:53 pm

Khedrac wrote:
Havard wrote:D&D Skirmish Systems
  • (Original) Chainmail (1st, 2nd, 3rd Edition)
  • AD&D Battle System 1st Edition
  • AD&D Battle System 2nd Edition
  • Chainmail (D20)

D&D Mass Combat Rules
  • War Machine (BECMI, Companion Set)
  • Sea Machine (BECMI, Dawn of the Emperors

Other Related Sourcebooks
  • Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures Handbook
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes of Battle

I think there is a good argument for the 3.5 miniatures game (from Miniatures Handbook) counting as another Skirmish system. Pretty much all the 3rd Ed plastic miniatures came with stats for that system (as well as the noromal game stats) and I think there were a few products expressly for it (scenario maps). I would calls the MH as primarily a separate miniatures system with a small amount of additional 3.5 stuff. Heroes of Battle is, as you say, "just" a related sourcebook.


I'd agree with Khedrac there. I don't know the internal politics behind the decision, but WotC were selling Chainmail miniatures and decided to drop Chainmail. There is actually an official Dungeons & Dragons Minuatures website out there. From what I can tell WotC wanted to move towards something totally generic.

That's a shame (from my point of view) as the Miniatures Handbook could have been a "Greyhawk-lite" book with sidebars that contained information about the Sundered Empire. The Web Enhancement (Ruins of Fear and Madness ) is a Greyhawk-lite thing, so maybe they were moving the action back to the Flanaess in a much more subtle way.

Khedrac wrote:There is also the naval combat system from Gaz 4 - but I don't know if it counts as Mass Combat or what - I suppose it is as much of a mass combat system than Sea Machine so Mass Combat then.
The biggest problem with it is the lack of rules for how to work out a ship's stats.

Further, what about OrcWars (Dragon/Gaz10)? In many ways it is a D&D wargame (though one with no rules for adapting to other circumstances).

As for other BattleSystem references, I am sure that I saw some things that suggested that it could be used, but I have no idea where - quite possibly in stuff from Dragon?


There is a D&D product called AD&D Adventures in Space that I hear contains some sort of flying ship combat system. :twisted:
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Re: AD&D Battle System

Postby Havard » Sat Aug 19, 2017 2:31 pm

Big Mac wrote:I think it would have been nice to have had some level of consistency in these things. There have been several editions of Manual of the Planes for example, that have continued the same thing (as well as introducing edition changes). It would have been nice to have seen some other areas of D&D have some better continuity.

As for the "Warfare" side, I think this ties in well with miniatures combat gaming. It might not be the primary business of D&D, but if you can get shops to stock a ton of miniatures for wargamers, those miniatures become available for mainstream D&D gaming. So I think it's worth the effort.


You are right that this often ties in with minatures combat and war gaming, but I think you can adress war in gaming without involving miniatures too. The War Machine system from BECMI is an excellet way of handling warfare in a more abstract manner. 3E's Heroes of Battle is another approach which is also interesting as it focuses on PCs on the battlefield rather than the warring armies themselves.

Something that has often been discussed on Old School circles is how integral the Wargaming roots of D&D were back in those days. Why are D&D characters out to collect piles of loot? Why should PCs build a Stronghold at 9th level? It is all so that these things can later be used in the wargaming campaign. We still have these conventions in D&D, but when the reasoning behind them has all but faded into the background, these elements can also be a bit puzzling to players.

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Re: AD&D Battle System

Postby Havard » Sat Aug 19, 2017 2:49 pm

Big Mac wrote:I'd agree with Khedrac there. I don't know the internal politics behind the decision, but WotC were selling Chainmail miniatures and decided to drop Chainmail. There is actually an official Dungeons & Dragons Minuatures website out there. From what I can tell WotC wanted to move towards something totally generic.

That's a shame (from my point of view) as the Miniatures Handbook could have been a "Greyhawk-lite" book with sidebars that contained information about the Sundered Empire. The Web Enhancement (Ruins of Fear and Madness ) is a Greyhawk-lite thing, so maybe they were moving the action back to the Flanaess in a much more subtle way.


It is interesting to learn about how this developed. I did not really become interested in Chainmail untill it was already discontinued, but I remember being confused about why there was both a Chainmail game and a Miniatures Handbook. I thought they were competing products from the same company! I did get interested in the Miniatures Handbook though since it included Catfolk, which could be used for Mystara's Rakasta. :cool:


Big Mac wrote:There is a D&D product called AD&D Adventures in Space that I hear contains some sort of flying ship combat system. :twisted:


Does Spelljammer include rules for running combat between multiple ships on both sides?

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Re: AD&D Battlesystem

Postby Havard » Sat Aug 19, 2017 5:03 pm

I also learned about a game called AD&D 2nd Edition Battlesystem: Skirmishes and started a separate thread about that here. I will add it to the list of skirmish scale games.

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Re: AD&D Battlesystem

Postby Blackleaf » Sun Aug 20, 2017 8:57 pm

I owned and played a few games of Battlesystem. I think the 2e version is more stripped down which appeals to me more. I'd like to find that Skirmishes ruleset as well.
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Re: AD&D Battlesystem

Postby BotWizo » Mon Aug 21, 2017 8:19 pm

I own X10 and we had a hard time figuring out Battle system when we were 13, so we just used the war machine form the companion set.
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