God of Battles Designer’s Notes: Picking An Army

GoB_LOGO on white web

The GoB rule book includes 10 full army lists to choose from. In fact, that’s the bulk of the page count.

These lists are a mixture of the familiar and the unusual with some features common to most wargame rules and a few that you might not have seen before.

Overall, choosing an army follows the familiar concept of agreeing on a set number of points for a game with your opponent and then using the army lists as a shopping list to pick what you want up to that value. For God of Battles a small game is 24 points, an average one 36 and a large one 48 or more.

So far we’re on safe ground.

Cloven in Twain*

The first unusual feature comes when you look at the army lists themselves: each is split into two parts. The first part is called the Main Force, and is just that. This part lists units of infantry and cavalry and provides the bulk of the models in an army. It is what makes the army look like an army when you lay it out on the tabletop.

The second part of each army list is called Command & Support. This includes all the bells and whistles that add “chrome” to the army and give it more character as well as offering a lot more to think about during the battle. It has the army’s characters, bodyguard unit, war engines, monsters, and any character or unit enhancements that may be available. Some of the items bought from the C&S section add or modify a unit bought from the Main Force section whilst others are units in their own right.

When you’re choosing an army you get a fixed number of points to spend. In God of Battles, you spend this twice – once on each list. So, a 24 point army really consists of 24 points of Main Force plus 24 points of Command & Support. Note that you cannot swap points between sections – each total is dedicated to a specific part of the list.

I chose this structure for a number of reasons.

  1. It forces people to build proper looking forces rather than just picking 10 cannons and a wizard, or whatever nonsense the internet tells you is unbeatable this week. It controls the cheese.
  2. I can play the game with armies that have been chosen from the Main Force alone. This allows for easier training games, quick and dirty games when time is short and so on. The split very simply separates off the core of an army from all the extras, with all the additional choices and rules (and therefore time to play) they entail.
  3. It helps you to focus when picking a army. The process of building the shape of the army as a whole and the process of adding the fine tuning and the frills are conveniently separated.
  4. It means that I can have a reasonably balanced way of building an army with no further restrictions (other than occasional things being unique). Again: a simple rule with a lot of useful implications.

Point Values

I might talk about how the points are arrived at in more detail another time. For now, what I wanted to say about point values is that they are carefully balanced against the overall army sizes. Unless you’re playing a vast game (60+ points) you won’t be able to take everything you want. That is very much part of the plan.

Being able to take everything you want in an army is dull, unchallenging and uninteresting. For me, both the skill and the entertainment of the army building phase (something I greatly enjoy) is based on having to make tough decisions about what to take and what to leave out precisely because you cannot have it all.

It’s also why I am very strict on the points value being a fixed and immutable limit. If you pick a 24 point game and then “let people off” with a couple of points then you’ve just taken away all the challenge and allowed their laziness to win. Don’t let them off, instead show them how to finesse the army. Look harder. Try more options. That way you’ll learn more about both your own decision making as well as the army. In any case, God of Battles plays so quickly that you should be able to get a couple of games in an evening, so why not try out both army builds you were considering?

In order to give you a frame of reference, individual Main Force units vary from 2 to 16 points with most costing 4-6. Units with a cost of 10+ are unusual and tend to have a major impact on the battle, one way or another. You can see from this that most armies will have 4 or 5 units of troops to move about in a 24 point battle – not counting whatever they get off Command & Support.

Army Size

God of Battles armies are relatively small compared to, say, Warhammer forces. I’ve done this for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, needing to collect vast armies is a massive hurdle to getting new gamers to play, which is a Bad Thing in my book. It’s also a huge barrier to getting armies from the fevered mind of the general and onto the tabletop. I daresay that I’m not the only one who’s had their plans thwarted by the time or expense associated with collecting a vast new force. 24 points is an ideal size battle for a 4×4 table and is a great place to start. Obviously there are a lot of variations between the 10 armies, but 50 models would be a reasonable ball park figure for a 24 point army. My orc army has lots of goblins in it and comes to 57 foot figures and a chariot. If I’d chosen all orc units instead of goblins I could have done it with 24 fewer models.

Secondly, I want some space to manoeuvre. Too many games I see are shoulder to shoulder units across a battlefield with no space to move. All you can do is roll forwards and all semblance of tactics and thought go out the window. Having a lower model count allows some space to move in, and some flanks to protect and exploit. It adds loads more game play and is a real world example of less (units) being more (fun).

Thirdly, I wanted it to be easier to add to an army. Once you’ve built your core 24 point force, you can expand it to 36 or 48 by adding new units, or simply include some extra units so you can try different 24 point builds. By making units relatively small (6-16 models) you can get the fun and excitement of the new tactical challenge a new unit gives you without it costing as much or taking as long to get it on the table.

Fixed Units… Sort Of

One thing that is bound to cause some initial upset is fixed units. When you look at the various units in both sections of the army list you’ll find that they have a fixed number of figures in them. If you take a unit of nymphs there will be 8 of them. I can see people deciding against this as a terrible affront to their choice. Well I’d say give it a try first. I think it’s a really good plan.

To start with, the units aren’t entirely fixed. You’ve got to pick which of the standard bearer, musician or marksman model(s) you want in each. You can add characters to units (in fact you have to), and these characters can have various bits of extra kit and affect the unit in different ways. Most armies include a number of unit enhancements which can be added to units to make them tougher, fightier and so on. Layering several of these choices onto the same unit can make a huge difference, so they’re not quite as immutable as all that.

What you can’t do is faff about with adding a single model here, changing swords for short spears there. That’s all nonsense. You’re a general for crying out loud! You should be worrying about whether you need more cavalry or more elite regiments; whether the priest will be more useful than a really big cannon, and so on. I want to take you back to commanding an army, not piddling about finding a lost farthing in the accounts. A general needs to know whether that unit is city state pike or ogre gunners, not whether Jenkins has tied his laces properly or Hobart is wrapped up warm (his mother did ask). Deal in the big picture, the sweep of the battle, the army as a whole. That’s the general’s job – he has flunkies for the details.


One final quick thought about armies. I want my army to have loads of character and individuality to it. With this in mind, every army also gets a Camp and a Baggage Train for free together with 2 units: one of camp followers and one of sutlers who guard these areas. These are great modelling projects and ideal opportunities to use some of the brilliant models available which look cool and amusing but which have no real place in line of battle. I’m thinking here of things like Foundry’s vignette of goblins torturing a dwarf (by shaving off his beard). Character and fun.

I would also encourage you to collect scenery specifically for your army. When you set up a game in GoB you work out who is attacker and who is defender. The battle is then fought in the defender’s land, using the terrain table for that army (every army has their own) to generate the battlefield. Each terrain table adds more character to a force, and if everyone collects the terrain for their own army (their home turf, if you will) then you always have what’s needed whenever two armies meet 🙂

Only The Start

There’s lots more I could say, but I’ll pause here for the moment. There may be questions or comments. What do you guys think?


* It’s very unlikely I’ll be using this schlock piece of hack fantasy prose seriously, so I thought I’d leave it here, where it can’t do any harm.

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22 Responses to God of Battles Designer’s Notes: Picking An Army

  1. This looks like a very interesting system. It sounds a bit like a battle will look similar to Hordes or early 40k. I think this could maybe be called affordable gaming – for those who want a smaller, characterful force rather than massive numbers of models to paint. Also it will help Foundry, who sell those pricey pricey metal models.

    I think that this is good, as it makes it different from other mass battle systems out there. Diffirent is the important word there. Will this quench my thirst for immense armies arrayed accross a tabletop, ala KoW? Nope, but it will be an interesting way to game when I’m not up to that. Also army building being less about number and more about style (insert hair-flick here).

    Also nice idea for the Force Comp. I can see how this will work to keep cheese down, although I’m sure there will be some interesting combinations to arise. As a mere fromality, would you expect people to be calling a game of 24 points per sectiona 24 point or a 48 point game?

    So I’ll go and look for reliable pre-orders now.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      You are right about there being “interesting combinations” for some armies. Cheese is very hard to eliminate entirely. Part of my aim here was to attempt to inculcate something of a different ethos than normal which would also mitigate against cheese. Still…

      Your comment about “pricey pricey metal models” made me have another look. Not so much, really. They’re more than Mantic plastics (but then so is everyone else), a bit more than GW plastics (only slightly for plastic elites) and less than their metals. Very much so in some cases. Remember that you need far less models for GoB than WFB or KOW and your overall spend might well be less. You pays your money, you takes your choice. Of course, there’s nothing to stop you using Mantic or GW or AoW or Red Box or Zvezda or anyone else’s models if you don’t want to use Foundry’s. It’s your army. Of course, you could also have one set of models that did double duty and served in several game systems.

      I’ll say it again: it’s your army.

      • Haha, I didn’t mean that foundry models are expensive in particular – just that metal is more expensive in general, and foundry have decided to keep that particular route. A game like this services that well (which is probably part of the idea). I’ll probably be using multiple companies models to make up my force. Miniatures of the North have made some very nice looking ‘Fallen Dwarfs’ which I’m convinced will be usable in GoB, somewhere.

        On cheese hunting, I wouldn’t fret too much. Part of me thinks that all games need a little bit of cheese just to bring character to the game. Not taht I’d know – my mind has so few tactics that I couldn’t find cheese in a cheese shop. It could just be the combinations that work well in a game.

    • Ben says:

      If you have KoW armies already then some of them will “scale down” to GoB very easily. I’m going in the other direction with my Mantic Undead, as I go up from 24 to 36 to 48 points I’ll eventually reach a point where I can play KoW with it as well.

      • Quirkworthy says:

        GIven the straitened economic times we live in, models that can serve double duty are a good way to go.

        • Ben says:

          This should have been a reply in the thread above, not sure why it’s appeared on its own here :s. Makes me look like I’m randomly pushing Mantic’s product. In which case I should mention that there are other miniature manufacturers available and they also do minis you can make GoB armies with lol

        • Quirkworthy says:

          It’s easy to click the wrong bit and end up with comments in the wrong place. However, I’ve also had it post my comments in odd places even when I have very clearly clicked the right button (and deleted and reposted things to make sure). Sometimes it just gets confused.

          Know that feeling.

  2. Keith says:

    Any chance of letting us know what the 10 armies are?

  3. redfox4242 says:

    That is extremely fascinating. I could play this now because it uses about half as many models as Kings of War. It sounds really cool to me. I will be watching for that Friday post with the armies.

  4. Poosh says:

    ARG! Finally! I’ve been waiting for this shizzle.

    Is there, perchance, a Imperial, gunpowered armed army in this book?

  5. bongoclive says:

    Have you played around with the “I Go, You Go” system?

  6. Jared Blando says:

    Hey man,

    I just received my book in the mail and i have to say its pretty awesome:) I am really enjoying the ruleset so far, and i think its basically a quicker, more concise version of what a fantasy wargame should be! However, i wanted to contact you about an idea i had for God of Battles.

    One of the best things that i loved about Warhammer 5th edition was the ability to create your own units from the rulebook’s troop creation section.The specific points values for certain equipment (Lance, armor, horse or warhorse, etc.) was a great way to create your own warriors to use in a game from existing miniatures.

    Since i am a big wargammer myself, and a bit of a rules creator/adapter and painter (Please check out my blog at http://15mmwarzone.blogspot.com/), i’m a HUGE fan of creating my own world and units to fight epic battles in. Do you think you would ever release a Regiment/Unit creator for us to use? I’d Love to have heavily armored knights fighting alongside my steadfast pikemen, or have armies of armored celts crashing into ranks of dark spawn,etc. Would you ever consider releasing unofficial factional PDFs for your fans to use for say historical battles?

    I’d love to see you come up with something such as that, since i think the system has a lot of versatility, and would benefit from an expanding range of lists to use.


    • Quirkworthy says:

      The system is very versatile, as you say. What you’re asking for is the points costs for the units and how they’re worked out. I hadn’t planned on releasing that, though I suppose I could at some point.

      In terms of adding knights, etc to the existing GoB armies – I’d counsel against it. GoB is intentionally light on mounted units. That gives the game a different flavour as a whole, and makes the cavalry that do appear more special and unusual. It also comes back to a critical design point which is that what you leave out of an army is often more important than what you include, and that giving every army all the same stuff is dull. Some armies shouldn’t have war engines, cavalry or whatever because that sets them apart and makes them play differently. With 10 armies to pick from they need to be more different than just a change of colour scheme. What they don’t have is a big part of this.

      Going back to knights, I personally love the Renaissance knight models that Foundry make, and was repeatedly tempted to include them in the Mercenary army. However, every time I was tempted I held back as the army does not need them to be characterful and different. All adding them to the army would do is diminish the specialness of the few armies that do have heavy knights.

      That said, you can always make whatever modifications you feel like for your own games, and that’s fun too.

      In terms of things I expect to be releasing as support, I’ve been working on a new scenario and pondering a campaign system 🙂

      • maxstyles417 says:

        One thing I really like about the army lists is that they are fixed in a lot of ways. I am always bugged by the lists from games that allowed you to swap out units from battle to battle so you were building a “taylored” army for each fight. I would often see “4 cannons and a wizard” some up for one battle and “no cannons and lots of flyers” show up for the next. It always made me picture the entire army turning into a sack of coins after the battle and some poor page carring it to the next battle site where he would buy another army from the army store. And so on….

        I have to say that I am really enjorying GoB and looking forward to the campaign system.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          Glad to hear it. I’m afraid that the campaign system might be a while in coming, what with one thing and another. Not forgotten though.

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