Chainmail

This section briefly talks about Chainmail.

Original Chainmail: Rules for Medieval Miniatures

Chainmail: Rules for Medieval Miniatures

Summary
Stock Code6002
Released1st-1971, 2nd-1973, 3rd-1975
DesignGary Gygax
Jeff Perren
Internal ArtDon Lowry
Cover ArtDon Lowry
Format48 page spiral bound book
Rating**

Chainmail has gone through three editions. The first was originally published by Guidon Games, and had the fantasy supplement with six spells incorporated into it. The second version from the same publisher had an expanded fantasy supplement, and incorporates rule changes from the Domesday newsletter. Finally, there was a third version, which was published by Tactical Studies Rules. Unfortunately, I am unable to discover any differences between the second and third versions. Confusingly, there is another game called Chainmail, created by Wizards of the Coast (who bought up TSR in 1999), but this game has absolutely no connection with the product being reviewed here; from the little I have heard, it seems to be WOTC's answer to Warhammer.

This is the odd one out in my reviews section, and I am only including these rules because they happen to be ancestral to the original Dungeons & Dragons game. I have to admit that I am not an expert at miniature wargames, but from reading a PDF version of the third edition of Chainmail, I have managed to get an idea of the general concepts involved. However, since I have only had access to this version, it may be possible that I mention concepts not in previous editions.

The first section of the rules covers battles between units of troops. This uses single miniatures to represent multiple troops of the same kind. Multiple miniatures form units, and you use a combat table to resolve conflicts between units. There is nothing here which resembles D&D in any way. There are six classifications of troop type: Light Foot, Heavy Foot, Armoured Foot, Light Horse, Medium Horse, and Heavy Horse. When an unit attacks another in melée, you look on the chart of type versus type, and this gives you the number of attacks possible on the other side, and the number(s) on the d6 thrown which indicates a kill. From the charts, it seems that the chances of foot soldiers surviving a cavalry charge are pretty slim; missile fire is quite as devastating as a cavalry charge, and catapults are quite lethal. But this shows the kind of attention to detail which is present throughout the rules. Occasionally, the author gets quite chatty when talking about some historical unit, and way that they should be treated in the game.

So far, there is little connection with D&D. The first inkling is in the rules for Man-to-Man combat. This eschews the abstract scaling of miniatures to actual troops, and assumes that all figures represent a single individual. Using these rules, melée takes into account the armour and weapons used by the two individuals, however this is the only thing differentiating two figures. There are twelve weapon classes, from Dagger to Pike, and 8 armour types from No Armor to Plate Armor and Shield. It cannot be coincidence the armour combinations given are exactly the same as the labels on the original D&D Armor Class table. However, the application and resolution is quite different from D&D. You compare the weapon class of the attacker and defender, and the one with the lowest weapon class will attack first - and can possibly make multiple attacks if the weapon is much lower. For each attack, the Armor and weapon are cross-referenced, to give a value between 5 and 12. Rolling this number on 2d6 or above counts as an instant kill. It is interesting to note that this is the primary combat system mentioned in original D&D. Not surprisingly, this was the first thing that Dave Arneson changed when he came up with the rules that became D&D, because his players complained that they kept on being killed. I wouldn't be surprised that Gary Gygax kept them in because of sentimental attachment, even though they were obviously unsuited to the game. Needless to say, they were not present in any subsequent editions of Dungeons & Dragons.

It is only at the Fantasy Supplement, do we start to see things that directly correspond to D&D. All of the races, and many of the monsters are represented in the game. Each fantastic creature has some kind of modification to the basic rules, such as extra attack dice, and special powers, such as paralysation. Some of the creatures are assumed to be singletons, although they are able to attack units on the standard Combat Tables. However, when these type of creatures fight each other, they must attack on the Fantasy Combat Table, which references attacker type versus defender type to give a number which must be beaten to kill the opponent.

The usual humanoids include Goblin, Kobold, and Orc. There are Ogres, Giants, and Trolls; surprisingly the latter do not appear to have the infamous regeneration power. Giants are supposed to be a single type. However, the dragons are differentiated into the classic Red, Blue, White and Green types, together with their distinctive breath weapons. Elementals, including Efreet and Djinn are included. However, the undead, including Zombie, Ghoul, and Wight only seem to have the power of paralysation.

Special human "monsters" include the Hero, Super-Hero, and Wizard, all of whom are mentioned on the level charts of D&D. The Wizard actually has five grades: Seer, Magician, Warlock, Sorcerer, and Wizard. with lower grades having reduced effectiveness in combat. Note how all these become D&D level titles! Each of these magic users can cast Fireball or Lightning Bolt each turn, or can cast a number of other spells. For full historical record, these include: Phantasmal Force (2), Darkness (1), Wizard Light (1), Detection [magic/invisible] (2), Concealment (3), Conjuration of an Elemental (5), Moving Terrain (6), Protection from Evil (3), Levitate (2), Slowness (3), Haste (3), Polymorph (4), Confusion (4), Hallucinatory Terrain (4), Cloudkill (5), Anti-Magic Shell (6). The number in brackets indicates the Complexity of the spell. It is remarkable how many of these spells are identical named in D&D, and even have exactly the same level as their complexity. Where this differs from D&D magic is that any level Wizard can cast any spell, with optional rules for miscasting showing the difference between a Seer and a Wizard. An interesting addition (which should really be incorporated into D&D) is the rule for counter-spells., which definitely realises the concept of magical duels, so often mentioned in fantasy stories.

Historical Oddities