A Kind of Magic by Timothy C. Bateson

Issue: 7
System: Hordes of the Things
Publisher: Wargames Research Group

A Kind of Magic
An Addition to Hordes of the Things
by Timothy C. Bateson


There is actually very little wrong with the Hordes of the Things rules. The combat system is fine, as are the movement and troop type rules. The real area of weakness is the magic system. One of the joys of Fantasy Wargaming is the manipulation and casting of spells. It is also one area for contention; some spells in the commercially available rules are so stupid in their effects as to defy description. If a magician had the power to cast a spell that would make an entire unit of elves fight on the side of the orcs, then he would be so powerful that nothing need trouble him at any time. If the magician can overcome such deeply entrenched animosities then surely he could deal with any foe. What I intend to do is introduce a sort of spell listing system which would make magicians much more flexible than their current incarnation without requiring a major re-think of the rules. At the moment, magicians are little more than costly mobile artillery. This must change.

Initial Solution:

In Hordes of the Things it currently costs 2 PIPs for a magician to cast a spell. I propose to alter this slightly; magicians can now cast spells costing 1, 2, or 3 PIPs to cast. This will enable lists of 1, 2 and 3 PIP spells to be compiled. Extra magicians may assist in casting certain spells (see spell description) at a cost of 1 PIP each as per the current rules. If it is so desired, magicians may also be graded; thus one could have a 1 PIP hedge wizard who could only cast, and assist in the casting of, 1 PIP spells.

Some preliminary notes:

Some of these spells assume that the exact composition of an opposing army is unknown. Thus the clairvoyance spells become rather useful. All spells have the standard 600p range unless otherwise noted in the description.

One PIP Spells:

  1. Detect Lurker:

    This spell will enable the caster to discover if the opposition has any lurkers in his army. It must be cast on a terrain type, and if the opposition has any lurkers that could appear in that terrain type he must disclose that fact, bu NOT how many such lurkers he has. It must be cast on an appropriate feature; casting detect lurker on a forest would not reveal the presence of any water lurkers for example.

  2. Enhanced Command:

    Increases the command range of a general within 600p of the casting magician by 50% for 1 turn only. Thus a general will have a range of 900p out of sight and 1800p in sight. It will make the moving of units chaeper, but only if you move at least 2 groups of elements.

  3. Missile Protection:

    This spell protects one element per casting magician from missile fire. Any element fired at by an opponent in the opponent's next turn gets the benefit of +1 per casting magician on its combat roll. Note that for more than one element to be protected by a combined casting all the elements must be contiguous and in the same group. Note that if three magicians cast this spell the three protected elements get +3 to their roll. Note also that if shooters or artillery are so protected they may not shoot back; this means that anything shooting at them is protected from an adverse outcome.

  4. Impede Sneakers:

    This spell is cast on a single friendly unit and will prevent any enemy sneakers from passing through that element in the sneaker's movement phase. If it tries to do so, close combat will automatically result. It MAY be cast on a unit already fighting sneakers to prevent the sneaker element from simply walking through the element (thereby ending the melee) in its movement phase. Note that a unit with this spell on it may NOT move through enemy or friendly sneakers itself nor allow itself to be passed through by friendly sneakers.

Two PIP Spells:

  1. Strike:

    This is the standard magicians' spell as in the basic rules. Note that it is assumed that heroes and magicians thus ensorcelled still need to be brought round by the expenditure of 6 PIPs.

  2. Clear Terrain:

    For one movement turn and the ensuing combat phase, all terrain for the element upon which the spell has been cast is treated as clear. This could well stop a unit of knights, for example, being destroyed by bad going. Note that it will not prevent the appearance of lurkers, so it is not a means of safe passage through suspect terrain. It cannot be cast on a unit that begins the turn in melee or overlapping a hostile unit.

  3. Bad Going:

    This spell is cast on a single element, and takes effect in the enemy's turn. Any unit trying to close in combat with the protected unit does so as if through bad going, and suffers adverse combat factors and results as if in bad going. In the next turn the terrain reverts to normal. This spell may not be cast on a unit in combat or overlapping the enemy.

Three PIP Spells:

  1. Flight:

    This spell can only be cast on unengaged friendly units. It enables the unit to make a move like a flying unit, that is to say 1200p in any direction. There is a risk, however, that the flying unit will make a complete mess of its movement. On a roll of 1 on a D6 the unit losses control and is move 2D6 hundred paces in a random (roll D12) direction. If this moves it off the board, the unit is assumed lost, although it will be recovered at the beginning of the next move in a campaign. If it lands on a unit, the opponent must position it off, but as close as possible to, the unit in any direction he sees fit. A unit that fails its flight control roll is always placed with its back to the enemy.

  2. Raise:

    The casting of this spell is never entirely predictable, since the caster must reserve enough PIPs in his turn on the off-chance that a unit will be destroyed in the combat phase. If such an event takes place, AND the caster is within 600p, AND has 3 PIPs spare, the unit may be animated as an undead unit of exactly the same type as the destroyed unt. This undead unit will remain until destroyed.

  3. Block:

    This is a powerful spell which hinders the appearance of lurkers in a single specified area (e.g. up to a 6" x 6" area of bad going, or a 6" length of river) for the rest of the game. This means that the placement of lurkers in such an area is at an extra +2 PIPs.


I would urge that counters for all spells that are cast on your own units are made, and placed face down on the affected element at the time of casting. When it becomes relevant the counter can be turned over as proof that the indicated spell has been cast. You may also like to consider allowing the placement of bogus spell counters (one per sorcerer, in addition to the spell he actually casts?) to prevent the opposition from knowing precisely which of your elements have spells cast upon them.

These spells add an extra degree of interest to the game without going over the top. Of course, it is easy to think of other spells that would fit into this general pattern. Try it and see.

See also:

Ed Note: Hordes of the Things is a generic set of Fantasy wargames rules produced by the Wargames Research Group and was reviewed in Ragnarok 1. A second edition is now available and was reviewed in Ragnarok 43. HOTT has won the Best Fantasy Wargames Rules category in the SFSFW Awards five times out of seven! For further details regarding price and availability, send an SSAE to Wargames Research Group, The Keep, Le Marchant Barracks, London Road, Devizes, Wiltshire, SN10 2ER.