I quite like the Warhammer Ancient Battles rules for doing small scale skirmish battles, although I think they don’t give a good feel of a larger scale battle very well at all. This is a problem with some of the army lists, like the later Byzantines, where you want a unit of really nice looking kataphractoi but can’t really justify having an imperial guard regiment in an army of 80 men, which would really have just been the garrison of a frontier fort.
There are a couple of things that I would like to change though, to give it a better feel.
The first is purely nomenclatural. The names of generals are always too important. My 80 man byzantine force (its not an army) will be let by a Turmarch or similar, not by the emperor. Its easy to change this though.
The second is a spin-on from WFB. If the unit width to qualify for ranks were upped to 5 it would give the battle-lines a thinner, more realistic feel, rather than the deep company columns you often seem to get at the moment.
The third is the big one. It dates from the very first days of Warhammer, back in the ’80s. At that point there was a fundamental misapprehension. Being on a horse does not give you extra protection if you and the horse are a single entity. It makes you more vulnerable. Because of this mistake, everything thereafter has to compensate in WAB to make up. Ideally the situation should be:
Missile fire should have a +1 to hit cavalry, as they are a larger target. In hand to hand the larger target is outweighed by the extra height the cavalry-man has.
Saving throws should be:
None as a base for everyone.
+1 for a shield.
+2 for a large shield for infantry (-1 move).
+1 for light armour for infantry.
+1 for heavy armour for cavalry.
+1 for light armour and cloth trapper for cavalry.
+2 for heavy armour for infantry (-1 move).
+2 for heavy armour and barding for cavalry (-1 move).
+4 for cataphract armour and barding for cavalry or mediaeval full plate and plate barding (no extra bonus for shields, -2 move).
So the saving throws would be:
None – anyone
6+ – infantry with shields or light armour, cavalry with heavy armour, cavalry with shields, cavalry with light armour and light barding.
5+ – infantry with large shields, infantry with light armour and shields, infantry with heavy armour, cavalry with heavy armour and barding, cavalry with light armour and light barding and shields.
4+ – infantry with light armour and large shields, infantry with heavy armour and shields, cavalry with heavy armour and barding and shields.
3+ – infantry with heavy armour and large shields, cataphract cavalry with full armour and full barding.
No-one would have 2+ or 1+ saving throws.