Saturday 23 February 2019

8th Voyage: House Rules for Crooked Dice's 7th Voyage


In this article, I present my revised combat rules for the 7th Voyage rules, by Crooked Dice.  Straight away, the question is: why modify anything at all?

Well, I've always wanted to play games that recreate episodes from Greek myth (or rather, from movies about Greek myth such as "Clash of the Titans").  This is exactly the point of 7th Voyage and so when it was published, I bought the rules and played a few games:
As you can see, in 2015/2016 we tried these rules exactly as written, but it just didn't feel as exciting as it might have done.  Command & control was fine, the scenarios were good, the magic system (which we barely scratched) seemed workable.

What fell flat for us was the combat system.  Once 2 models were in combat, there seemed to be an endless stream of dice rolls (to hit, to wound, saves for armour, shield or mystical force), with the only outcomes being either injury or nothing at all.  Sure, the rules allowed an attacker to attempt to knock down their opponent instead of striking for damage - but who would ever choose that option?

Compare this with another set of rules that I use (though not for this type of game): Song of Blades and Heroes.  In that, the combined results of a single die roll by each of the attacker and defender determines whether either is pushed back, knocked over or killed (or even killed gruesomely).  Note also that this is accomplished in a very simple manner; it doesn't require any table lookup or anything like that - just the application of a few simple rules.

Using Song of Blades and Heroes, we have had some really swashbuckling games where sword fights between the good hero and their evil protagonist have moved all over the scenery.  In particular, I recommend "Robin Hood and the Forest Road" (or here for the thrilling conclusion, if you're too impatient to read the whole thing).

So, I want heroes to be forced to the ground by the weight of the monster's crushing blows, before summoning up a lucky strike to the bad guy's vitals.  I want soldiers to have to watch their step when fighting on a cliff top (or rampart, ship...); if they give ground then they may be in for a fall!  I want combat to be resolved quickly and easily with a minimum of dice and statistics, but with a variety of possible outcomes for each attack.

What you see below is my attempt to meet these goals and breath fresh life into 7th Voyage.  To distinguish my house rules from the base set, I'll call my version 8th Voyage.

So far, 8th Voyage has been tested in these battles:

8th Voyage: Revised Combat Rules (v0.2)

First principle

The basic rules of who and when an attack can be made remain unchanged from the rules found in the 7th Voyage rulebook.

A minor additional rule

A couple of adjustments to facing are permitted to a defender:
  1. If a defender sees an attacker at any point during that attacker’s activation then the defender may turn on the spot so as to keep the attacker in their front arc.  It’s not reasonable for an attacker to run completely around an aware defender and strike them from behind in a single turn.
    Note that the defender may choose not to change facing, presumably because this would expose their rear to a future attack from a different, more dangerous enemy.
  2. After any attack from the rear (even one that failed to have any effect), a defender may choose to turn on the spot to bring the attacker into their front arc.  Put simply, you cannot make multiple attacks from behind without the defender noticing something...

Strike vs Defence

The mechanism for resolving an attack is changed as follows.  Note that this is strongly inspired by, but not completely identical to, the Strike rules in 7TV (2nd edition):
  1. Declare a target
  2. Determine line of sight (for ranged targets only)
  3. Determine the range (for ranged targets only)
  4. Defender makes a defence roll
  5. Attacker makes a strike roll
  6. Determine the effects of the attack.

4. The Defence Roll

  • Start with the defender’s Defence statistic.
  • Add or subtract modifiers as follows:
  • Per defender status:-1
    If prone:-1
    Soft cover, against missiles:+1
    Hard cover, against missiles:+2
  • Add the score of 1d6, unless the target is unconscious.

5. The Strike Roll

  • Start with the Strike value of the attack being used.
  • Add any modifiers which apply:
  • Per attacker status:-1
    If target is flying-1
    If range is more than 6”-1
    If prone-1
    If attacking from behind+1
    If a ranged attack is aimed+1
  • Add the score of 1d6

6. Determine the Effects of an Attack

If the strike result is equal to or greater than the defence total then the attack has been successful and the defender takes the normal status effect and/or damage from the hit.

  • The defender may convert any strike total which equals the defence value into a push back instead of a hit (i.e. the defender retreats from the attacker by one base depth).  This cancels any damage or status that would otherwise be inflicted and does not permit any parting strikes from any models.  If the defender is unable or unwilling to be pushed back then the damage/status is not cancelled and has its normal effect.

    A defender which is larger than the attacker is not pushed back; they can simply ignore this hit.
  • The defender may convert an attack which equals the defence value or exceeds it by one into a knockdown instead of a hit (i.e. the defender is knocked prone, but avoids damage and any status that would otherwise be inflicted by the hit).  If the defender is already prone or is unwilling to do this then the damage/status remains.  Presumably the defender would only choose this option for an 'equals' score if they were unwilling to be pushed back as in the previous bullet point.

    A defender which is larger than the attacker may choose to be pushed back rather than knocked down.
Note: even if the damage and/or status from the attack is cancelled by a push back or knock down, it still counts as a hit.  That will be academic in most situations, but some rules may have other results which are neither damage nor status.  For example, the Hurl special effect allows a defender to be thrown 2" and knocked prone on a successful hit.  This is neither damage nor a status and therefore the result of this effect cannot be cancelled or avoided.

Design Notes:

Calculating a Defence Value

The Defence value is calculated as the original ‘Def’ value, plus 4.  Here are some examples:
Def [original rules]Defence [revised rules]

Calculating a Strike Value

The Strike value for an attack is calculated from the data for the original 7th Voyage attack using the following formula:
Strike = 8 + Weapon Str  – Hit number (- 1 if the attack is unarmed).
This assumes that a weapon or natural equivalent such as claws or horns is in use; subtract 1 for an unarmed/brawl attack.
Here are some pre-calculated Strike Values (for weapon attacks.  Remember to take 1 off for an unarmed attack):

  • If no ‘Hit’ number is given (for example, a Str 4 hit is made automatically if a Dangerous weapon explodes) then assume a value of ‘Hit 3+’ and work out the Strike value accordingly.
  • If a weapon, spell or other game artefact has ‘Scatter’ then roll the ‘Hit’ number as normal, but only for the purpose of determining whether a direct hit has been made or whether the weapon/spell/... scatters.  Calculate the Strike value from the combination of Hit and Str as above when resolving damage to any model that is under the template.

Weapon Effects

Unless noted here, there is no change from the rule as written in the 7th Voyage rulebook.

  • Entangle: If the Strike total equals the Defence value or the Strike total is only 1 lower than the Defence total then the defender is knocked prone instead of being hit.  The defender may not choose to cancel the hit by being pushed back.
  • Parry: A Defence roll of ‘1’ by the defender cancels the first otherwise successful attack in a turn.
  • Thrust: Roll 2 dice against flying targets or against defenders which are larger than the attacker and choose which result to use.
  • Unwieldy: Cannot make an attack as part of a move into contact.

Special Effects

Unless noted here, there is no change from the rule as written in the 7th Voyage rulebook.

  • Armour: Adds +1 to Defence value.
  • Shield: Adds +1 to Defence value against attacks from the front 180 degrees.
  • Titanic Blow: Adds +1 to the Strike value for a Brawl attack.
  • Herculean Strength: Adds +1 to Str and to the Strike value of melee attacks from this model.
  • Dodge: For the first attack against them each turn, the defender rolls 2 dice for defence and chooses which one to use.  Cannot use this to dodge attacks from the rear.
  • Invulnerable: Adds +1 to Defence value.
  • Bull Rush: Attacks where the Strike result equals or beats the Defence result, or in which the Strike result is only 1 lower than the Defence result cause the defender to be knocked prone or pushed back (Attacker’s choice) in addition to any other results.
  • Shield of Force: Ignores successful hits on a further roll of 5+.


  1. A warrior (Strike 7) uses an action to attack a satyr (Defence 8).  The warrior rolls a '5', for a strike total of 12.  The satyr rolls a '4', also for a total of 12.  The satyr avoids the blow by skipping nimbly backwards.
  2. The same warrior uses his second action to move forwards and attack again.  The warrior rolls a '2' (giving a strike total of 9) and the satyr a '1' (giving a defence total of 9).  This time the satyr has his back to a rock and cannot avoid the blow by retreat again.  However, he can - and does - avoid taking damage by being knocked to the ground.  The satyr is now in some difficulty; it cannot avoid any further attacks by falling prone or retreating since it is already on the ground!
  3. A hero (Strike 8) attacks a huge cyclops (Defence 8).  Both roll a '3', thus tying the scores.  Normally, the defender could avoid such a hit only by stepping backwards or falling prone.  However, the cyclops is larger than the attacker and can just shrug off such a weak blow with no ill effects.
  4. The cyclops retaliates!  Its Strike is 8, compared to the hero's defence of 8 (7 natural, +1 for armour).  This time the cyclops rolls a '5' and the hero rolls a '3', giving respective Strike and Defence totals of 13 and 11.  There is nothing the hero can do to avoid this blow, so he takes a wound.
For what it's worth, the probabilities of an injury are much the same in 8th Voyage as in 7th Voyage, at least in some situations:
  • 7th Voyage: consider a fairly average "Hit 4+, Str 3" attack on a "Def 4" target.  The chance of a hit is 3/6 and of that hit converting to an injury is 2/6.  This gives the overall probability of a hit that causes damage at 6/36, or 1/6.
  • 8th Voyage: the statistics above convert into a Strike value of 7 and a Defence of 8.  The odds of the attacker's total beating the defender's by 2 (needed to ensure a damaging hit) are 1/6 - exactly the same as for 7th Voyage.  However, the attacker also has a 4/36 chance of knocking the defender down and a 5/36 chance of pushing them back.

Further Thoughts

This a work-in-progress and although I'm reasonably happy with the reworked rules above, there are still some questions in my mind:
  • Should there be an option to spend an action on a "power blow" when in melee, possibly for a +1 to the Strike value?Pro: this is analogous to aiming for a missile attack and would give more choice to an attacker (do I use a flurry of weaker blows or try one more potent attack?).
    Con: it's exactly the same as the Herculean Strength effect as written above.  So would Herculean Strength then need to be changed, for example to add +1 to Str and +2 to Strike?
  • Should there be a greater chance of a push back and/or knock down?
    Pro: it would make combats more mobile.
    Con: how would such a rule be framed differently, without becoming much more complex?
  • Should combat be more bloody?  Possibly by increasing all Strike values by 1?
    Pro: games would be quicker and more decisive.
    Con: an attacker is already allowed to spend both their actions on melee attacks.  This might change the tone of the game quite a bit...
  • +2 Defence for a combination of armour and a shield seems very potent.  There has to be some benefit from having either and a greater benefit from having both, but how can it be made a bit more subtle?  Perhaps rerolling '1's on defence for one item and rerolling '1's or '2's if the defender has both?
  • I'm not keen on the 'Shield of Force' effect requiring a further die roll to resolve.  But equally it seems wrong to reduce it to (for example) a +1 to Defence.  How else might it work?


  1. Even without knowing the rules, you explanantions are very clear and logical imho.
    Whenever I have written rules in the past I've always looked on the extremes of a combat to see if:
    a) The result is always (or nearly alwyas) what I would expect, given that it's an extreme example.
    b) That is still a chance of the unexpected happening.
    E.g. A samurai master swordsman attacka an unarmed peasant in the rear : Can he ever be beaten ?
    The other thing with all game rules is that there should, where possible be a chpice of actiom for the player - I think you've managed this where possible btw.
    Good luck with 'polishing' your ideas

    1. Thanks, Joe! I've got a number of ideas about how I could change these rules further, but I'm a bit concerned that such tinkering might be too much...

  2. Sorry for the delay in responding.
    I finally committed myself to a thorough read-though and think this deserves some feedback.

    * I think this is a big improvement over the game as written, which lacked animation and tension.
    * You seem to have covered all the main outcomes with a factor for each contender and a die-roll.

    Is anything missing, or did I miss anything.

    * I didn't spot an ability for minor characters to team up on bigger characters. Maybe this doesn't fit in with the tone of the game. It's also important that bigger characters can't exploit ganging up to become invincible.

    * Unless I missed something, the action seems one way - attacker smites enemy, but I didn't spot a way for the defender to win. This became a bit tiresome when attackers were getting 2 shots, and then 2 more following an initiative turnover. It seems better for the narrative if the defender has an opportunity to respond (see Pulp Alley or Song of Blades and Heroes).

    Finally, my answers to some of your questions.

    * Power Blow: Works in SoBaH since the attacker took a risk to gain multiple actions. Turns are more deterministic in 8th voyage, so it seems like a simple call on the odds.

    * Greater odds of a result? Higher strike values? Probably requires a bit of playtesting. The current evens or +1 have the virtue of being simple to remember. You don't want a modern fighter combat scenario where victory goes to the first guy to attack.

    * +2 for shield and armour. This may be a granularity issue which could be addressed by using dice with more sides. d10 for a 10% increment as opposed to 16% with a d6. (Won't somebody spare a thought for the poor neglected D12?)

    * I agree that subsequent die rolls should be avoided as far as possible.

    I hope this is useful.

    1. Thanks for this detailed response, Steve! Here are a few thoughts of my own in response:

      * You're right that there is no specific combat bonus for multiple attackers ganging up on a single opponent. However, the attackers will get many more strike opportunities (simply because of their numbers) than the lone character. Even if the odds of these are not great, sooner or later one of them may land that lucky blow.

      * You're also correct that an attack is risk-free; the defender "defends" and doesn't get any riposte. That is really a necessary consequence of the previous point! It's a game design choice; 7TV has gone a different route from Pulp Alley/Song of Blades and Heroes.

      * I was never very happy with the number of turnovers (i.e. one player taking 2 turns in a row) in 7th Voyage. As the rules are written, turnovers are more probable than not, since a tied initiative roll is in favour of a turnover. 7TV (2nd edition) handles this differently by keeping the player order from round to round, though each player can voluntarily turn over once in the entire game. This would probably be a good amendment to add to 8th Voyage...

      * I have considered different mechanisms to handle shield and armour. One possibility is that they grant a defence re-roll of a '1' (or a '1' or '2' where both are in use). Another possibility is that one of them gives a bonus of +1, but only if your defence value is lower than the strike value before any dice are rolled. This then starts to interfere with the "parry" ability of a sword - should *that* continue to grant a defensive bonus or should it change to "riposte" (perhaps a defence roll of '6' with a sword allows an immediate, free counter-attack?).

      * Another thought occurs to me: there are 2 ways of modifying a dice roll at present. An event card can be sacrificed *before* the roll for a '+2' and a luck token can be spent *after* the roll for '+1'. Perhaps these should be folded together so that either can be used for the '+1' after the roll - that would simplify things and remove an often-forgotten pre-roll decision. Ah, then there's "Audience Appreciation" tokens, which can be used for a re-roll...

      Ah, so many decisions...