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Hellfire. Playing the Game

As you can see, I don’t paint magnificent figures, nor produce fabulous terrain. I just wargame. You now see why I ask people who do produce nice stuff if I can have photographs. (I’m no great shakes with a camera either)

Now for the rules. They do play rather differently to some other sets so I thought I’d run through a brief episode taken from a campaign game. In the main Hellfire rules there are some scenarios to give you ideas. There is also a campaign, THE RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL TO DOGGATON III.

The Incumbent and his brother, the Usurper, are both trying to control the territory with their limited forces. The more areas they control, the more tax they can raise, and the more chance they have of paying their mercenaries before they desert or mutiny.

The Incumbent, Talkan Hersal is ‘trying it on.’ He’s noticed that one area is only lightly garrisoned. The Usurper, Nilwain Hersal has only garrisoned the area with one company of militia which he has raised locally.

The incumbent cannot spare any of his regulars but he has encouraged two companies of his mountain warbands to chase the militia out and he’ll then replace the usurper’s tax collectors with his own. Hopefully with the extra money flowing in he’ll be able to finish repairing his mecha.

So the attackers are

One Mountain Warband Infantry company.

The warband has seven bases of infantry armed with personal projectile weapons and an eighth base equipped with a crew served energy weapon. They wear flak armour.

Reaction 3,2,3,2,2,2,2,1 17pts

One Mountain Warband Cavalry company

Each company has seven bases of horsemen. These are armed with melee weapons but have some marksmen who have excellent modern projectile weapons. Rather than engage in firefights, their tactic is to remain in cover and put out a sniper. If the sniper is driven in, next turn they’ll put out another one. Once the enemy is pinned they will try and attack them in close combat. They wear long padded coats, along with a helmet, breastplate and vambraces made of horn scales. They count as flak or ablative armour, depending which is best under the circumstances. 

They have an eighth base, a horse drawn crew served projectile weapon as well.

Reaction 3,2,3,2,1,2,2,1 16pts

For the defenders we have

Militia company

Each company has 2d6 bases of infantry, and at the start of the game the player rolled 7. One of the bases is a crew served projectile weapon. The infantry have obsolete projectile weapons, these at half effect over 10” but at normal effect under 10”. Their crew served projectile weapon fires as far as any other but again with half effect over 10” but with double effect at 10” and under.  

Reaction 1,2,3,2,1,2,1,1 13pts

In an attempt to boost their morale he’s provided them with uniforms. They now were the blue greatcoats and black peaked cap of a recently disbanded paramilitary police unit whose uniforms were being sold off cheap. (Irregular Miniatures Crimean war infantry in loose order.)

When they press the panic button, reinforcements are due to arrive. These are

A Locally recruited mercenary infantry company.

Six bases of infantry wearing ablative armour with personal energy weapons. They are arriving in locally produced civilian hovercraft (Irregular Miniatures, from memory it’s a heavy transport in their 2mm range which makes a nice squad transport in 6mm.) A seventh hovercraft mounts a crew served energy weapon.  

Reaction 3,2,3,3,2,2,2,1 18pts

They will arrive when a running dice total reaches 12 or more. Start rolling the dice when they get the alarm.

Set up.

The photo shows the main scene of the action. The village is on the banks of the river, which is fordable. Across the river the hills start and their lower reaches are covered with undulations and scrub allowing plenty of cover.

The warband infantry company are across the river from the town. They are remaining hidden ready to ambush any reinforcements or to take the village if the opportunity presents itself. The cavalry are just out of shot to the right. They cannot be seen, but they are putting out snipers to keep the militia’s heads down and hopefully demoralise them.

Move one.

The attackers

The cavalry put out a couple of snipers who quietly start to harass the militia in the village. The militia have a reaction total of 13 points whilst the cavalry have a reaction of 18 points. So the cavalry, in the 15 to 20 point band roll a d8. The militia roll a d6.
The cavalry roll ‘8’, the militia roll a ‘1’. The militia are pinned.

The militia have to react. Their reaction code is 1,2,3,2,1,2,1,1

So the first time they test they test on the ‘1’ table. They roll a ‘2’ on a d6 which means that they get an ‘h’ result. If you look at the quick reference sheet ( a free download from  )you can see that ‘h’ is a version of ‘g’. But as the unit is in the town and in cover, it doesn’t withdraw from the town, it just gets deeper into the cover.

Suddenly the town is apparently empty, militia men loitering in the square have run for cover.

Cross the ‘1’ off the reaction code. You’ve used it.

In the improvised HQ the commander is on the radio asking where his reinforcements have got to.

Move two

The attackers

The snipers continue their grim work. The cavalry rolls ‘8’. The militia roll ‘2’.

This turn they roll on the ‘2’ table because the next number in the reaction code is a ‘2’. They’re no longer surprised, but there are casualties. They roll a ‘5’. Reading of the table, this is an ‘o’ result. “Continue with current activity. The new developments don’t worry them at all.”

The defenders.
Obviously the militia are recovering their nerve. They continue to watch and wait. They are still pinned. They can see nothing to shoot at.

The mercenary company roll a 5.

Move three

The attackers.

The snipers keep firing. They roll a ‘2’, the militia roll a ‘3’. Somebody has obviously spotted a sniper position and fired on it. The sniper scampers back to join the rest of the cavalry in cover. The militia are no longer pinned.

The defenders

The mercenary company roll another 5. Obviously they weren’t all that far away. The militia still cannot see anybody to shoot other than the sniper they just drove off.

Move four.

The attackers.

The cavalry send two more snipers out. Both sides roll a ‘6’. Obviously both snipers and militia are being very wary.

The defenders.

The mercenary company roll 4

The first hovercraft appears on the very edge of the table. It cannot fire or be fired at, it’s more a notional presence. The attackers now know they’re coming. It could be they’ve heard the roar of engines rather than seen anything.

Move five.

So far each move, both sides have been rolling a d8 for command, but as both sides were doing so little, the points weren’t needed. Now things are happening.

The defenders roll ‘4’, the attackers roll ‘5’.

The attackers

The attackers don’t need to move, but both the infantry and cavalry crew served heavy weapons prepare to put down covering fire on the river.

The snipers continue their work, they roll ‘4’ to the defender’s ‘3’. The militia test again, they’ve crossed out the previous number, a ‘2’. The next one is a ‘3’. They roll on the ‘3’ table and get an ‘o’ result again. They’re fine, but they’ve already used up the best of their reaction codes. If something isn’t done soon, their morale will crumble through attrition.

The defenders

The mercenary company makes a full move upriver.

The two crew served heavy weapons ready. They decide to target both on the lead hovercraft which carries a heavy weapon. They interrupt the hovercraft move when it comes within 30 inches of them.

The improvised armour of the hovercraft is worth 13. The crew served heavy weapon rolls a d10. Now if you look at page 13 in the rules (this varies because kindle, pdf and paperback all do word flow and formatting slightly different, but it’s just above the ‘to hit’ tables)

“For crew served heavy weapons you roll a d10 and read off below the dotted line. So with a ‘4’ on the d10 you can penetrate power armour but not an energy field. It may make it easier to think of it as rolling a d10+12.”

The two heavy weapons roll a ‘2’ and a ‘3’. This makes them effectively ‘14’ and ‘15’ so both have penetrated. Improvised armour is really designed to protect against small arms.

The first hit damages the armour, as a result of the second hit the hovercraft explodes, killing the entire crew.

The mercenary company tests reaction. Their first number on their reaction code is a ‘3’. So they roll on the ‘3’ table, as surprised with casualties. They get a ‘b’ result. “Group stops, counts as in as good a cover as possible, and will open fire whatever happens.” They are also pinned.

This means that they’d bring the hovercraft close to the bank to get the cover from that. But the player decides to move them into better cover. This would normally take one command point, but as they’re pinned it costs 2. This takes them into the edge of the scrubby cover. Infantry on foot can move a third move, which would normally cost another point, but of course they’re pinned. So the defender uses two more points to get his infantry out of the vehicles and into the scrub. Not only are they in cover, until they move and fire they are invisible. In theory they should fire, but they cannot see any targets in range.

Move 6.

The attacker rolls a ‘6’ for command, the defender rolls a ‘3’.

The attacker

The attacker spends three points redeploying the mountain warband company to defend against the mercenaries who would now be in danger of rolling him up from the flank.

He also has the cavalry mount up (1 point) and charge in (one point) and the cavalry heavy weapon and the infantry company’s heavy weapon now fire into the village.

First the cavalry’s heavy projectile weapon fires at the militia. Because they cannot see an individual element, they effectively fire against the entire unit. They roll a d10 (+12) getting a ‘2’ so they’ve got ‘14’.
Working through the table, the militia don’t have armour, so the difference between firer and target is ‘14’. Multiplied by ‘1’ (number of bases firing) and divided by ‘7’ (number of bases in the target) which gives us a total of ‘2’.
Because they’re in the village we’ll count them in cover as well as ‘dug in’ so the ‘2’ is halved and then halved again. This takes the difference down below ‘1’. On the Casualty table, if the difference is below one, there are no casualties.

The infantry energy cannon fires getting a ‘7’. This is a total of ‘19’, but divided by ‘7’ and then halved twice is still less than one.

Crew served heavy weapons shooting at units which they cannot really see aren’t all that effective.

Then the cavalry put in their attack. They’re not under fire so they can do a double move, which costs one command point. When the cavalry gets to within a move of the infantry the cavalry must make a reaction test. It’s their first test, so looking at their reaction code they roll on the 3 table. They roll in the melee column and get a ‘4’. This gives them an ‘m’ reaction so they’re fine and keep going. The militia now test their reaction. Their next number on their code is a 2. They roll a ‘4’ which puts then on an ‘n’. They prepare for close combat, but they do get to fire as well.

This firing takes place at a move away, which is six inches. The crew served projectile weapon fires at double effect and aims at one cavalry base. It rolls a ‘6’ plus ‘12’ is ‘18’. The cavalry wear flak which gives them a defence of ‘5’ which means the difference is ‘13’. This is doubled because of the range with this particular weapon. So that’s ‘26’. Multiplied and divided by 1 (number of bases involved and doubled again because the target is moving in the open.

Looking at the casualty table, you’re definitely more than ‘14’. Because you’re only firing at one base you can only kill on base, but given that the first base targeted needs a you to roll less than or equal to ‘6’ on a d6 to kill, you kill one base of cavalry.

The infantry firing is projectile weapons against flak armour. The militia roll a ‘6’ so there is a difference of ‘1’. They have six bases firing at six (the cavalry heavy weapon is not getting involved in the charge) so it remains at ‘1’. Moving in the open doubles it so the difference is ‘2’.

The cavalry company has an initial reaction total of 16. So looking at the casualty table in the 15 to 20 column, a difference of 2 means you need to roll ‘1’ on a d6 to get another casualty. The militia promptly roll a ‘1’. So the cavalry lose two bases.

The cavalry sweep into the village. They charged on an ‘m’ result which means they roll a d12. But actually because they are under fire with casualties they’re ‘pinned’ which means they roll one die lower, a d10. They don’t count as outnumbered because they count their horses (for cavalry, a cavalry base counts as double.) but the militia don’t feel outnumbered because they don’t count enemy horses. Attacking mounted, whether in vehicles or on horseback is one shift up so the cavalry are back on d12.

The infantry start on d10 with their initial reaction roll giving them an ‘n’. They are in buildings so give them the one shift up (using the bonus for “shield barrier wall”). Remember the scale of the combat, being holed up in buildings gives some advantage, but you also surrender the initiative meaning that the attackers can concentrate on individual buildings.
So both sides roll a d12. The cavalry roll a ‘3’, the militia roll ‘11’.

This is a difference of ‘8’. Rolling on the casualty table in the 15 to 20 column the militia need a ‘5’ or less to kill one more base. They get a ‘5’.

The cavalry as losers now have to test reaction. Their second number (the ‘3’ has been crossed out) is a ‘2’.  They roll in the ‘2’ column under melee plus casualties.

They get a ‘6’, which is an ‘n’ result to they are instinctively willing to stay and fight. But it is now the end of the attackers turn and he has to check morale.

The cavalry had an initial reaction point total of 16. They have lost three bases out of their initial 7. It is now a disintegrating group. At the moment it stays where it is.

The defender
First the mercenary infantry move forward. They know where the enemy infantry are, they saw the energy weapon fire and they’ll have seen some signs of movement. They move forward one move (using 1 point of command) and fire.

Their target has flak which has no defence against energy weapons. Instead the defenders count a defence of ‘2’ for ‘dust.’ (in this case foliage and similar as well) The mercenaries roll a ‘3’ on their d12, which is a difference of ‘1’. Given they’re six bases firing at ‘7’ bases and their enemy is in cover there are no casualties.

But it’s the infantry’s first time shot at so they test as ‘surprised’.

They roll on table ‘3’ and get a ‘1’ which is ‘c’. “Group stops, counts as in as good a cover as possible, and will not open fire or expose themselves to enemy retaliation in any way. Count as pinned. If it is really good cover, the group may no longer be visible to enemy troops and is therefore immune to direct fire.”

In the village the fighting continues. We have seven bases of militia (they’ve left the heavy weapon) fighting three bases of cavalry. Both are on ‘n’ so roll a d10. The militia are now the ‘attacker’. The cavalry are a disintegrating formation so the militia roll 1 die up and get a d12. Neither side gets the advantage of the buildings. The cavalry weren’t throw out of the village so both sides now have it.

The cavalry start at d10 but even counting their horses, they are outnumbered and don’t get a bonus for attacking on horseback. So they roll d8. They’re outnumbered 2:1 (7 to 3) so drop to d6.
The militia roll ‘3’, the cavalry, their backs to the wall, roll ‘6’. This is a difference of ‘3’. The cavalry are the winners. Looking at the casualty table, the Militia’s initial reaction total was 13pts, so look down the fewer than 15 column, ‘2+ to 5’ difference, the cavalry kill a militia base on ‘2’ or less. They roll a ‘3’.

Whilst they’ve not taken serious casualties in the fighting, they’ve lost the round so the militia take a reaction test. The next number on the line is a ‘1’. They roll ‘4’ and get a ‘p’ result. “p. Group packs up ready to go. If contacted it fights at less effect. However when called upon to move away from the enemy it gets a 50% bonus.”

The militia moral is slowly cracking under the strain of combat.

Move 7

The attacker rolls ‘1’ for command, the defender rolls ‘5’. One command point isn’t enough to do anything with pinned troops. So the attacking infantry are trapped in the firefight.

The cavalry, being a disintegrating formation, roll their own command die. D6-3 and if the result is negative, “then the group withdraws at maximum speed abandoning all heavy weapons”

The cavalry roll a ‘1’, mount up and leave. Whilst technically they abandon heavy weapons, the heavy weapons weren’t committed so they just withdraw.

The attacker

The attacker decides start with his infantry. They fire at the mercenaries. The mercenaries wear ablative armour giving them a defence of ‘4’. The infantry roll ‘8’. This gives them a difference of ‘4’. With ‘six bases firing at six that stays at ‘4’. But the mercenaries are in cover so that’s halved to ‘2’. Because they firers are pinned it’s halved again to ‘1’. Looking at the mercenary initial reaction total on the casualty table, the infantry need a ‘1’ to get kill a base. They get a ‘5’. So the mercenaries are under fire but have no casualties but are pinned. There is no reason for the mercenaries to test reaction. They’re hardly surprised, they’ve been under fire before in this action, and they’ve not suffered any casualties.

The defender

In the village the militia spend the move re-establishing control and redeploying.

The mercenaries return fire. This time they roll ‘10’. That’s a difference of ‘8’.

Eight divided by seven multiplied by ‘6’ is still pretty much ‘7’, which is halved for cover for ‘3.5’ and halved for pinned to between ‘1 and 2’. So they too need a ‘1’ on a d6 to get a casualty. They get a ‘4’.

Nobody has suffered any casualties, both sides have each other pinned down.

Move 8.
The attacker rolls a ‘5’ for command. That’s enough, he can move his pinned troops back and once they’re out of sight he can withdraw with them. The defenders are happy enough to let them go.


  • The problem for the attackers was how rapidly the mercenaries came up. It didn’t give them the time to whittle down the morale of the defenders in the village. Had they got them to test for being charged on table one, melee and casualties, the militia could well have abandoned the position without a fight.
  • Another issue is that one unit in cover shooting at another unit in cover can keep it up all day. This is where bringing up support, or manoeuvring to outflank positions, is important. Having another unit that can move around an enemy’s flank can force another reaction test, and this slowly breaks down the enemy morale, even if it doesn’t kill anybody
  • With only two units a side the command dice didn’t really come in to play, but with more units needing to be moved you can soon find that troops get themselves bogged down and you struggle to keep them moving forward or back to break a stalemate.

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