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    The goal of this post is to start a thread, that will only be available on The Wargames Website, that will act as the designer notes for my endeavor to play mass battle wargames set in my own interpretation of the venerable fantasy setting of Glorantha, using the Mayhem rules for mass fantasy battles. I am working on a pdf army lists document, and this thread will act as the designer notes.

    Part I: Why Glorantha?

    Glorantha is one of the earliest fantasy settings for war-games and role playing games. Over the years it’s aesthetics have changed, but in general a faux-antiquity (mixing elements of Bronze and Iron Age) theme has characterized it. The latest iteration of the role-playing game bears that aesthetic even more strongly. Thus Glorantha has been for many years one of the few systems providing players with a fantasy world with a setting with a ancient rather than medieval aesthetic. It also is very developed world with a rich mythology that great shapes the diversity of cultures that populate the setting. In another name it provides one of the fuller role-playing settings for players seeking something closer to Mediterranean and Middle Eastern antiquity than other periods. This makes it also a great setting for wargaming (indeed it started out as a wargame) as it provides many military cultures in conflict.

    Another nice thing about Glorantha is that the creators (Greg Stafford and many others) early on declared that “Your Glorantha will Vary”, not only recognizing the unavoidable reality that various players will change the setting to meet their wants and needs, but also encouraging this. Thus the Orlanthi, one of the main human cultures in the setting who worship the Storm Gods and Earth Gods, have alternately being depicted with an aesthetic based on Celts (both Bronze Age and Iron Age), Mycenaeans and Minoans, Ancient Indians, and Vikings/Dark Age North Europeans. Indeed, considering the diversity even within cultures in Glorantha, all these depictions might be appropriate. There is a canon that gives the general theme, but beyond that Your Glorantha will Vary!

    When it comes to war-gaming Glorantha the first choice one must make is what is the role of myth and magic. Glorantha is a world in the intermediate region between a fully mythic setting, were gods walk the earth, to a fully post-mythic setting (were the gods are a product of an age of legends and have little impact on a world that may interpret nature through sacred lenses, but those lenses have none of the power in a mythic world). In “canon” Glorantha, magic is powerful, and mighty beings (i.e True Dragons are about 10 to 100 km in size) have an impact on war. Battles may be decided by a powerful hero acting out a Heroquest, or summoning powerful beings, or becoming an avatar of a god. This is all great and nice, but not what I want.

    Instead my Glorantha offers me the chance to enjoy ancient warfare, without all the political baggage that comes with our own history (being a Greek, living in Turkey tends to expose one to a lot of it). More importantly it permits me to ignore a lot of the gaps we have about ancient warfare in our world, which we as wargames assume away (you will be surprised by how little we actually know about ancient warfare. One of the most salient debates is for example on how Hoplites fought? Did they actually use dense phalanxes, or did they fight more like a heavy DBA style auxillia. Historians are debating these). A fantasy setting like Glorantha permits me to say, this is how they fight.  The clash of phalanxes, the below of warbands, the charge of cataphracts, the nimble psiloi and peltasts of DBA fame, are all present in my Glorantha. Magic still plays a role, but not the apocalyptic (literally) role it does in “canon” Glorantha. Thus I prefer a Glorantha of mass battle, informed by the aesthetic of antiquity (European and beyond), though closer to the “canon” than further away (so no chainmail or kite shields for example). When it comes to specificities I begin by the depiction of Gloranthan warfare provided by Martin Helsdon in his “Armies and Enemies of Dragon Pass” .

    Martin has produced a book in the vein of the venerable Wargames Research Group publications on ancient warfare. I will review the book later on in this thread (slowly writing a review), but suffice to say that at this point it provides a good sourcebook for anybody interested in mass warfare in Glorantha. The aesthetic Martin went for with his illustration of units, is a mix of bronze age and ancient, and thus well to what I want. His book is not “canon”, being firmly part of the “Your Glorantha will Vary” logic, but it is the fullest treatment of a warfare in the Dragon Pass and Peloria regions of the setting (a second book “Men of the West” covers the cataphract armies of the regions to the west of the Dragon Pass). Indeed, a lot of the information Martin provides, especially on how arms and armor are made and logistics, are relevant to warfare in our own history.

    Using Martin’s Glorantha as a base we have now a sourcebook on which to build our army lists and so one. The next question is making sense of the information. Armies and Enemies of the Dragon Pass is mainly written with role-players and board-wargamers in mind, and has little of the organization for army lists that miniatures war gamers seek.  So how did I take a 300 something page book, choke full of information, not organized with the miniature wargamer in mind, and organize it in my mind? The next post will explore this.

    "Do you not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?"

    Axel Oxenstierna


    I have vague but fond memories of Runequest and I recall it suited the Conan world quite well due to the technology levels you mentioned.
    I am following, oh and big thanks for the exclusivity!

    Chris Pringle

    I shall follow this with interest, Konstantinos!

    You might remember commenting on my own Gloranthan campaign. That one finally ran out of steam after two years – or rather, got elbowed aside by Clausewitz translations that took over my life – but we had a lot of fun with it (and with the two four-year campaigns that preceded it).

    I’m still sceptical about how interesting actual ancient-style tabletop battles can be, but I hope you prove me wrong and have a lot of fun with them. Looking forward to watching your project develop.




    No problem, this is something I wanted to do in some way for your site

    "Do you not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?"

    Axel Oxenstierna


    I had forgotten that, and back then I was only dimply aware of what Glorantha was. Why am I not surprised you had dabbled in it 🙂 .

    On Ancient warfare I think it depends on a lot of things, above all scenario design (also if you buy the revisiont (anti-Hanson) historians argument, then Hoplites should actually be Auxilia in DBA terms, which definelty would make many ancient Greek battles much more interesting) .

    Now on Glorantha, magic adds a part, but actually lots of Glorantha battles due seem to avoid the lets us meet on battle part (Exceptions are Orlanthi armies fighting each other in which case there is a very ritual aspect of combat starting with champions fighting, then elite warbands, and then the shieldwalls).

    Very early on Orlanthi rebels learned that they are not going to win a face to face fight with Lunar Perlorian or Solar phalanxes. Thus lots of a battles were Orlanthi try to outmaneuver Lunar armies either attacking them on the march  (Battle of Auroch Hills is essentially a Teutoburg Forest, while at Dangerfod the Orlanthi forced the Lunar infantry to fight in a ford, where they had risen the waters through prayers).

    "Do you not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?"

    Axel Oxenstierna

    Andrew Beasley

    Sounds an interesting challenge and one I look forward to reading.

    Been many I year since I ventured through the Dragon Pass or played a game of White Bear Red Moon.



    Part II: How do people in my Glorantha fight their battles?

    Based on the descriptions and information compiled in Armies and Enemies of the Dragon Pass, the human cultures of Glorantha tend to mostly fight in historically recognizable styles. There are some interesting differences though with our history. Fighting in Glorantha is not just “fighting”. The weapons and tactics used by armies are also a form of ritual prayer and indeed even hero-questing (the emulation of legendary heroes and gods). Fighting in certain way is not just about its efficacy vs. other ways of fighting. It is also about winning the favor of your gods, ancestors for direct intervention. As Martin points out, this makes Gloranthan military cultures extremely conservative. People are apt to oppose changing the way they fight as doing so would displease their gods or ancestors and deny them crucial diving intervention (and notice how I say would, and not could). As a result military innovation and cross-pollination is much slower in Glorantha then our world. In many cases it is the result of a hero conducting a hero-quest that “steals” or “returns” a way of fighting to the people. It is not just a matter of training.

    This is one of the main reasons why certain styles of warfare that became quickly dominant in our history, do not do so in Glorantha. For example, in Martin’s Glorantha we have Pike Phalanxes, a type of infantry that was very dominant in our own history. But in Glorantha for divine reasons, it is a rare type of warfare restricted to the Templars of the Solar god Yelmalio.  To learn to be a pikeman means to be an initiate of that cult. This connection between divine favor and modes of fighting also means that there are no unbeatable modes of fighting in Glorantha.  Fighting in a way that seems obsolete might give one victory against what seems to be the better way, because it permits you to tap into your god’s power.

    That said there are some commonalities in at least Central Genertela and the Dragon Pass. First, chariots have become obsolete as a weapon war. Armies do use them, but mainly for moving around warriors, priests and mages. They are not used as a shock weapon (exceptions exist). Second, barring the advanced weapons of the Mostali (whom I will not cover with Army Lists, nor will I do so with the Aldyrami ), self-bows/composite bows are the personal weapon with the longest range available to fighters. Javelins, darts, and slings are also heavily used. Third, there seems to not be a tradition of massed archery. With the exception of some units in Saird, not many units that could be considered using massed archery are listed by Martin.

    In my attempt to organize the massive amount of information provided by Martin, I have come to break down unit types as follows

    Weird Units:

    Magicians and their bodyguards: Magic, in the form of spirit magic, and even the much more powerful rune magic, is fairly common in Glorantha. Thus magician units designate specific collections of high level rune-lords, sorcerers etc, who rely on rituals to cast powerful spells that can indeed decide a battle. Unlike in other fictional settings, barring a geas or ritual requirement, a sorcerer or magician can be as heavily armed and armored as a dedicated warrior. Indeed, most such magician units are also normal combat units due to the presence of bodyguards.

    Flyer Units

    Various Monsters and War-Beasts

    Individual Heroes (usually with companions and bodyguards)

    Mounted Units:

    Shock Cavalry: Divided into Superior and Inferior. Units relying on cold steel and a charge in order to break their enemies.

    Shock Cavalry with some missile weapons: Divided into Superior and Inferior. Units that will use some ranged weapons to soften up the enemy before charging in for the use of cold steel.

    Light Cavalry Mainly Melee: Divided into Superior and Inferior. Horse that relies mainly in guerilla/skirmish tactics to weaken and enemy, and charges only to finish the job. It may be armed with javelins, darts etc

    Light Cavalry Mainly Ranged Fire: Divided into Superior and Inferior. Your dedicate horse archers armed with short/self bows

    Mixed Heavy and Light Horse: Divided into Superior and Inferior. Units combining heavy Calvary lancers with light cavalry shooters. In Glorantha that is mainly Praxian and Grazelander tribal units.

    Cataphract Cavalry: Divided into Superior and Inferior. Mainly used in the West, this represents the same as Parthian/Sassanid Cataphract of our history. Heavily armored cavalry that relies on the weight of its formation and ability to outlast attrition in order to destroy the enemy.

    Infantry Units: (this also includes units that move around the battlefield using mounts or chariots, but fight on foot)

    Hoplite Style Heavy Infantry: Divided into Superior and Inferior. Pretty much following the Hansonian interpretation, heavy infantry fighting in ranks with locked shields and using long spears as their main weapon who rely on pushing the enemy with their ranks in order to overthrow them. Mainly found as a mode of fighting in the Pelorian center of the Lunar Empire. Ranks are sacred numbers with Dara Happans using ten ranks, Pelandans five ranks, and units formed by Hon-Eel (Incarnation of the Red Godess) fourteen.  Hoplite style fighting is distinct from shieldwall or pike phalanx style fighting.

    Pike Phalanx Heavy Infantry: Divided into Superior and Inferior. With a couple of exceptions (the Agimori Praxian Tribe, and one mercenary unit), Pike Phalanx style fighting is the purview of the Solar Pantheon Templers. Their Pike Phalanxes are a powerful unit, as in our own history, with the added dread of being a living incarnation of Yelmalio. They are stronger than Hoplite Phalanxes of Shield Walls, and indeed are among the strongest military formations in Central Genertela. They are also rare.  The designation included supporting light infantry.

    Heavy Infantry Melee: Divided in Berserkers, Exceptional, Superior and Inferior. This signifies infantry that seeks to overthrow its opponents by superior training and use of cold steel in single combat , without the use of ranked battle tactics. Among the most powerful examples of these units are Humakti warbands (God of Death and Swords), Axe Maidens of Babeester Gor etc. It also covers non-human units like Trolls and Broo that rely on force of arms to overcome the opponent.

    Heavy Melee Infantry Shieldwall: Divided in Superior and Inferior. Represents infantry that relies on their ability in arms and single combat, without the use of ranked battle tactics, but able to form shieldwalls. Orlanthi weaponthanes fit this category.

    Light infantry Melee Shieldwall: Represents infantry that generally fights in very loose order, using perhaps ranged weapons to disorder an enemy, but able to form a shieldwall if needed to engage in close quarter battle. Most Orlanthi fryd fits here.

    Light Infantry Melee: Represents infantry that generally fights in very loose order, relying on skirmishing to disorder the enemy but able and willing to engage in close quarter fighting.

    Light Infantry: A generic category covering infantry fighting in loose order, relying on skirmishing, and not willing to get caught in melee.

    Light Infantry Bow: Most ranged combat units in Central Genertela take this form. Loose order, armed with short bows, mainly in skirmish formation and tactics.

    Massed Bows: Rare case of a unit armed with bows and trained to practice massed archery.

    Massed Bow with Massed Infantry (or shielded): Even rarer (I think only two units in the Armies and Enemies of Dragon Pass) which combines massed bows with some melee infantry, or large shields.

    Slingers: fight in loose formation, skirmish, use slings.

    Now we have a draft idea of what type of units we have to translate into the tabletop. While not every unit detailed in Armies and Enemies of Dragon Pass will perfectly fit in the above categories, a good many do. In the next Part I discuss why I used Mayhem to do that, and some of the logic of adapting Mayhem’s mostly Warhammer and Warmaster influenced themes to my Glorantha.

    "Do you not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?"

    Axel Oxenstierna

    Andrew Beasley

    Hmm – fascinating thoughts.

     Fighting in certain way is not just about its efficacy vs. other ways of fighting. It is also about winning the favor of your gods, ancestors for direct intervention. As Martin points out, this makes Gloranthan military cultures extremely conservative. People are apt to oppose changing the way they fight as doing so would displease their gods or ancestors and deny them crucial diving intervention …

    I wonder if the Tribal rules would help here? They have honour driving the game result and maybe it could ‘bent’ for intervention…

    Forgive me if you have already got a working system 🙂


    I’ll enjoy watching this progress. When we did  lot of RQ, the Lunars were the ‘big bad guys’ & seemed to us to be somewhat like the pre- Marian Roman Republic in troop type & fighting style, which isn’t a million miles away from your version.


    Andrew, in a way this is best taken care by army lists. The only place were you would need special scenario rules is for inter-Orlanthi battles (two clans or confederations meeting for battle) in which case you need to represent the phases of Campions Battle-Weaponthanes Battle-Shieldwall clash. I have some ideas on that for the system I chose (Mayhem)

    Etranger. The aesthetics change. My own view of the Lunars is more like a Hellenistic/ Mesopotamian Empire (as per the new aesthetics) which marshals a lot of different military cultures (Caramanian cataphracts, Peladran and Dara Happan Hoplites, Pentan nomads, Solar Pikes etc), rather than Roman Republicans or Eraly Empire (With their reliance on a smaller diversity of fighting cultures.  They are the “bad” guys in the old books, and they definitely have some nasty habits (using Chaos, human sacrifice to maintain the Glowline), but on the other hand they are a multicultural civilization, which provides many opportunities to people who would be locked in more restrictive cultural norms.  JM at Iconic Production gave an interesting interpretation of the Lunar-Storm conflict. Just like the Strom Cultures overthrew the Solar Cultures in order to create space, the Lunars are doing the same to Storm. If you remember that the Storm cultures are relative newcomers to the Dragon Pass (after the Dragons ate everybody that was their before), the conflict is a bit more nuanced then indigenous people vs. outsiders. Again I actually like Glorantha exactly because the conflicts are not just bad vs good, but driven by legendary conflicts by divine pantheons (Orlanth killing Yelm, Sedenya’a ascendance to Godhood etc). That said, I do agree that palying with Chaos is not cool.

    A point about the stickiness of fighting cultures. This is a thing that characterizes our own antiquity as well. It was not simple to transition to another fighting culture.  Pike Phalanxes were associated with certain political and cultural elements (monarchical power, the use of military colonies) and were not easily adapted by other cultures (for example the hard time of creating native phalanxes for the Seleucids and Ptolemies). Transition usual followed an evolutionary pattern (Galatians becoming thuerophori and then imitation legionaries rather than pike phalanxes). You even notice it with Southern Greeks that had an easier time transitioning to thuerophori, than to pike phalanxes (which generally were formed in Laconia during periods of royal absolutism). It is one reason why I think the revisionists are right and the hoplite phalanx was more similar to thuerophoroi than to pike phalanxes (same reason why Latins and Italiotes transitioned to legion style fighting rather than pike style). And of course it goes more broadly into things like certain regions associated with certain fighting styles (Agrinian and Cappadokian skirmishers, Belearic and Rhodian slingers, Celtic heavy cavalry and melee infantry, Judean Thuerophoroi etc). Ergo why combined armies tended to be the result of either multicultural empires (hellenistic) or mercenary forces (Carthage).

    Glorantha provides a way to see our antiquity by its own eyes, which is what Greg Stafford was going for. (i.e Alexander was not just motivated by glory etc, he was hero-questing Achilles, who was in turn hero-questing the Heracliades. He did not burn Persepolis just out of hubris but as a statement of his divine status, as only a god can insult a god etc)

    BTW if you need a good primer on Glorantha I do suggest the Iconic Productions playlist Exploring Glorantha.


    "Do you not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?"

    Axel Oxenstierna



    House Moving and busted back have thrown a wrench in my plans. I am almost done with the army lists (only eight pages of profiles, out of 40, to calculate points), but I decided to add two ready scenarios (an Olranthi Tribal Battle, and one based on the Battle of Dangerford).  So we are a bit a ways off from finishing the Draft that I will release. I plan to post Part III of designer notes here first and then release.

    "Do you not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?"

    Axel Oxenstierna


    Ok the document is ready and available for all of you. I still have a couple of  designer notes to jot down on this thread, but I wanted to be done with it. This has been rough month, and getting this out to you all is a small joy. Please note! It is not playtested and it is draft. Do with it as you will, and enjoy. See it more as a basic framework to explore your own ideas.


    The 42 page document of profiles, army lists, and scenarios can be reached for free at my blog or directly by clicking here MAYHEM Glorantha 

    "Do you not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?"

    Axel Oxenstierna


    Part III: Why Mayhem?

    Mayhem by Brent Spivey and Bombshell Games, was a system I was dimly aware of but never dipped into. My recent decision to try some fantasy/ ancient inspired fantasy led me to look for rules that a) covered a fast game of about 1 to 2 hours b) respected the lack of space I am facing c) did not require a huge investment for armies. A great Boardgame Geek thread did a lot of reviewing of fast battle mass fantasy sets . The author of the list recommends Hordes of the Things , a rule system I had experience with, and Mayhem. Considering that Mayhem was available to purchase in pdf, I made the decision to invest to it.

    There are many nice things about Mayhem. The choice between taking the average or rolling a dice for actions provides a wealth of decision making, which as Chris Pringle notes, is an important aspect of a good game experience. Army building is not too onerous, and there is enough flexibility to the open architecture to permit interesting combinations of characteristics and values to represent a wide range of possible units. I have not been able to play a game yet, but I can say that there are some interesting ideas in there. How they translate into reality is another question.

    There are also limitations. The magic system is rather restricted. The Warhammer influence in the unit characteristics is also clear (for example weapons titles like Swords, Great Weapons etc). But as I have learned at the great school that is Big Bloody Battles, the key to making a system work for you is to interpret the mechanics covered by the names used for them, rather than focus too much on the names the creator chose.

    So Swords need not mean in my case specifically a type of weapon, but a type of training and combat style that makes a unit expert at fighting other infantry in close quarter combat. Great Weapons do not necessarily mean double handed weapons, but again a type of training or combat style etc.

    Mayhem prohibits most units, with the exception of those with the Chariots designation, from combining melee and ranged weapons. Many Gloranthan units combine the two. But we can evade this issue by simply taking the DBA/ HOTT solution of only giving ranged weapons to units specifically trained to make maximum use of them. Thus infantry that mainly fights in melee but is armed with javelins, darts etc are not given ranged weapons, but instead given a better Close Combat values than similar units with no ranged weapons. I only gave ranged weapons to units of archers that fought based on mass archery, skirmishers using bows or slings, and cavalry mainly using short bows. The rare units combining archery with melee infantry, were represented by bow armed units with higher levels of Close Combat values.
    The same logic covered units that used chariots or horses to move around, but fight on foot. Rather than give them the Cavalry, Chariot or Light Cavalry designation, I simply gave them a better Movement Value than similar units that did not ferry around on horses or chariots.
    Interestingly, the Chariot designation makes little sense for Gloranthan warfare as described by Martin Helsdon, but is one of the ways to represent mixed units of horse archers and shock cavalry.

    When it comes to Heroes and Magical Units, designations were chosen partly on the text, and partly with the idea of representing the stature and power of the hero as described in Gloranthan texts.

    When it came to Pikes, I went for the tried and tested HOTT tactic of using the Behemoth designation. This makes Pike Phalanxes powerful in Glorantha, but they are rare unit. Behemoths in Mayhem follow a different logic to damage than other units, which makes more sense for the models we have built about the way Hellenistic pike phalanxes fought and died.
    Some new rules were added to represent things like effect of the Red Moon phase on Lunar units, sunlight and darkness on Uz (Trolls) etc.

    In general, the approach remains one of focusing not on the names, but on the mechanics, and trying to capture the spirit of how the units fought as per Martin’s descriptions, or the model of ancient classical and Hellenistic warfare he evokes. This is highly subjective and your Glorantha will vary, but it makes sense to me based on the text I used as a source.
    Finally I purposely made units powerful and thus expensive. Gloranthan armies will include many initiates in war cults, rune-lords etc in their ranks, who can marshal spirit magic, rune magic, and magical weapons in battle. Thus it made sense to me to make them more heroic than say a Warhammer empire foot regiment.

    Well that is all from me. Enjoy. Try the lists out, make your own changes (use my interpretation as a basis), and  feel free to ask any questions you want here.

    "Do you not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?"

    Axel Oxenstierna

    Martin Helsdon

    A few observations on your project:

    The Blessed Daughters are superior to the Pittance Regiments – and there will be figures available in one of the forthcoming Kickstarters by Mad Knight.

    Some of the regiments have special abilities – I don’t know if your system can emulate these. For example, the Riverfork can easily ford rivers.

    The new RuneQuest Starter Set includes a solo scenario set in the Battle of Dangerford, and includes maps and other items that may be of interest.



    What a honor! Thank you Mr. Helsdon. I love your book (a friend had a hard-copy and was nice to lend it. I am saving money to buy my own).

    1) I mostly based the characteristics on your ratings as presented in the army list section. I will correct this.

    2) The system, which is Brent Spivey’s not mine, does not per se include such rules, but special rules could be easily crafter for units.

    3) I have played the solo-quest and used the map as a basis for the scenario map, but Mayhem is a fast play mass battle system of rules, which a general less granual view for terrain than more simulationist systems.

    Again, I need to stress what a great set of books for wargamers you created.

    "Do you not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?"

    Axel Oxenstierna

    Martin Helsdon

    Thank you for your comments.

    One thing to bear in mind, is that Gloranthan warfare is characterised by the special abilities many regiments have from their gods and their regimental guardian wyters. These abilities are often very specialised, but there are also factors such as how the Stonewall Phalanxes augment their capabilities when fighting side-by-side. When all ten were in the field they are claimed to have been nigh unbeatable, but several are now long gone; the one the Red Emperor has had refounded is nowhere as strong as the original, which was strengthened by centuries of tradition and continuity.

    I don’t know the system you are using, but perhaps some regiments have a card giving their special ability, which can be put in play when ueful.


    Martin (if I may), I essentially included some of those abilities are stronger Combat Values than being separate items. Remember this is a fast play system, and simulating every ability might bog down the system. Some of them made more sense are increased combat value, or defense etc.

    "Do you not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?"

    Axel Oxenstierna

    Martin Helsdon

    Understood. My wargaming days are a very long time ago…

    Have fun!


    Hahaha! But you wrote the best fantasy wargaming sourcebook outside of Game Workshop 🙂 I do think ultimately Big Red Bat Cave Simon Miller will give us good rules for wargaming Glorantha, but I wanted to do something with your great stuff!

    "Do you not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?"

    Axel Oxenstierna

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