I have read a lot of mass combat rules in RPGs, and very few seem to hit the right balance. For d20, I tried titles from AEG’s War to Green Ronin’s The Black Company to Eden’s Fields of Blood, and nothing seemed to really work that well (for the record, I finally ended up using the homebrew system from Farland World [which has since passed into 4e] , which did the job at least adequately).
For Rolemaster, I ended up creating my own system (after a poor experience with War Law), imperfect and now-buried in a stack of notes somewhere. Honestly, I got frustrated and abstracted a lot of combat, which I think was a downer for those of my players looking to flex some of their new found authority on the battlefield.
What I want in a combat system is what I think a lot of gamers want:
-Quick to learn, easy to remember.
-Related to the same base mechanics, at least nominally, as the rest of the game.
-Scale for company-size to full army-size combat with little issue.
-Allowing for a moderate level of complexity without either too little or too much abstraction.
-Allow the players to influence the outcome of a battle through their actions.
Not a lot of systems for games hit all the check marks on that list. A lot of times, Mass Combat rules seem thrown in as an afterthought, if indeed thrown in at all.
Epic Role Playing is one of the few systems I credit with getting their Mass Combat rules at a place where I liked them out of the box, but by and large, getting Mass Combat rules right seems to be an obscure art. Sooner or later in my games, players are going to want that stronghold, are going to want/need an army, and there’s going to be a battle, be it a company of mercenaries or the Ducal Armies. It’d be nice if more RPGs did a better job providing the means to that end.
Is this an issue for anyone else? I’d love to hear other viewpoints and thoughts on the topic.