Cry Havoc! by Mail

Author: Lutz Pietschker
Version: 1998

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PBM Rules for Cry Havoc!

Note: My Cry Havoc pages have not been updated for some time now, and they are not likely to be; in particular, my extended rules have never been really finished. The most gorgeous and current website for the Cry Havoc fan is the Cry Havoc Fan site. It is a pure wonder what they did for the game, and you can also find the Magna Charta there, i.e. extended and consolidated rules. For PBM play I recommend to use the VASSAL modules.


Cry Havoc! is excellently suited for play by mail because of its rather simple rules and strict sequence of play. The publishers, however, took no advantage of this and did not include the one basic requirement for PBM gaming, namely a map co-ordinate system. This text is meant to remedy this and add the few conventions needed to play Cry Havoc! and its sequels by mail.

For the benefit of those who do not know the game (yet), an introduction is available that illustrates the game's characteristics. You will also find customer information there, as well as an complete overview of the available modules and components.

To use these rules you also need the Cry Havoc Maps file that describes map co-ordinates in detail. Also, a game replay using these rules is available (HTML, 36k)which tells the story of Lady Edith's abduction and glorious rescue. Since some character sheets changed between editions of the game ,the Character Lists may serve as a common data base between players.
You may also want to try the extended and consolidated set of rules which gives one complete set of rules for all games of the Cry Havoc series and also adds a few thoughts and gimmicks of my own invention.

Copyright: The game and its original rules are under copyright protection for Standard Games and Publications Ltd., UK and Jeux Descartes Eurogames, France. You must have the game and original rules to play, for technical reasons as well as to protect this copyright.

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PBM Conversion

Fortunately, the Cry Havoc! rules convert easily to PBM. And so I state as the first principle that each and every FTF rule remaineth valid unless specified otherwise.

The second principle is the System of Chivalrous Dice, otherwise called the honour system. Each player rolls for any action that happens in his player turn, and the other(s) shall trust him to be honest. Likewise, if the ammunition limitation rule is used, he shall count his own arrows truthfully. No other conduct is to be expected by a fighter in the Age of Chivalry, and no one would regard as a worthy opponent any scoundrel who cheats.
(This probably was a most superfluous paragraph, but it was fun writing it. By the way, if you don't trust yourself you may want to use one of the dice servers available on the web.)

No game master (GM) is needed in a normal game. (A GM would be required for playing a double-blind game, which certainly changes the characteristics of the game a lot and is, as I have been told, great fun to play.)

One problem of PBM play is that almost no Cry Havoc mapboard has a co-ordinate system, so we have to find a way to supply this. Starting with Viking Raiders, some of the mapboards feature a map grid reference. In the Cry Havoc Maps fileI describe how co-ordinates can be applied to all Cry Havoc! mapboards, as well as the mapboards themselves.

A second problem is that the Cry Havoc! rules are not as complete and precise as one would wish (though the Eurogames edition cleaned them up a bit). While in a face-to-face game this presents no real difficulty, it could lead to heavy message traffic in a PBM game. This is why I endeavour to re-word some rules and provide clarifications where it seemed necessary. The retreat clarifications try to make retreats more rule-determined, thus enabling the attacker to handle retreats in his player turn for most cases.
Please treat remaining problems with logic, good humour, chivalry, and if necessary by using a friendly die roll.

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Sequence of Play

The basic sequence remains unchanged. Each Game Turn (GT) consists of two identical Player Turns (PT). Every player completes his PT and sends the results to his opponent(s). The GT/PT are the same as in the face-to-face game sequence.
Normally, two messages are exchanged for each GT (that is, one for each PT). From time to time, additional messages (those in parentheses) are necessary to evaluate the results of missile attacks.

PT phases for the first player:

  1. Perform retreats that result from the previous PT missile attacks & combat.
  2. Missile attacks by archers (longbows, shortbows), then missile attacks by crossbowmen
  3. (If necessary, let the opponent handle retreats now.)
  4. Move
  5. Again, missile attacks by archers. Exception: Archers who have moved more than half of their movement point allowance in phase 3. may not shoot again.
  6. (If necessary, let the opponent handle retreats now.)
  7. Combat
  8. Un-stun all friendly characters

Done! Now inform your opponent what has happened.

PT of second player:
is exactly like first player's turn.

Note: If missile attacks have a "defender retreat" result and it matters where the defender retreats to, the additional messages would have to be exchanged after such attacks. If the retreat path is pre-determined by the rules, or if the attacker decides that he does not care where the defender retreats to, he may handle the retreat himself or continue and leave it to the next player in his PT, respectively.
Messages should always deal with complete phases. It is not appropriate for the game scale to ask for retreat resolution after every arrow fired; all fire in one phase shall be regarded as simultaneous (i.e., though the player may observe the result of one attack before declaring the next attack, he can not, by this rule, observe where the enemy retreated to before firing another missile).

If a player makes an error, the results stand nevertheless if his opponent does not point the error out in his next PT. If the opponent notices the error, the turn is not repeated, but handled like this: Moves etc. are completed as far as possible, and any action of that character after the mistake is voided. Other characters continue their actions as plotted. Combat results etc. are corrected accordingly, but plotted combats take place, even if the odds are no longer what the attacker thought they would be. The new combat results are obtained with the original die rolls, the appropriate modifiers, and the active player shall do any additional die rolls that are necessary.
As a chivalrous gesture, the opponent might agree to correct obvious co-ordinate spelling errors, or let them be corrected.

Comments in the PT messages will create a realistic atmosphere and should be used freely.

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PBM Rule Clarifications

The game certainly focuses on playability, not on extreme detail. All rules shall be used according to the rule book that is specified in the scenario no matter if later rule books did change these rules. This is especially important for LOS rules and for the combat and missile fire tables, as these changed considerably between the games of the series. This topic is taken up again in the scenario set-upsection below.
The following rules are meant to clarify situations that are known to lead to disputes, not to replace the rulebooks.

Hexes and Half-Hexes:
  1. Half-hexes at the board edge are playable exactly like full hexes. They also cost the full movement points. A character is onboard as long as his counter occupies at least one hex or half-hex of the map. "Offboard terrain" is regarded to be the same as "onboard terrain", mirrored at the mapboard edge.
  2. Hexes that are formed by two half-hexes with different terrain butted together provide the movement possibilities and costs of the more difficult terrain, the better cover, and the more disadvantageouscombat modifier of the two.
  3. For purposes of cover etc., the terrain fills the entire hex. The contours of the actual artwork are not relevant except when determining line of sight from doors and windows. For line of sight and cover exactly along a hex border the lighter of the two adjacent terrain types is used. (So if, for example, LOS goes exactly along the border between an empty and an occupied hex, the character in the hex would notblock LOS.)
  4. A hex can have only one terrain at a time, there are no different "locations" in a hex. For example, a hex with a ladder is a ladder hex; a character in this hex is always on that ladder (you can not walk "under" the ladder). The only exception to this is the siege tower.
  1. The basic Cry Havoc Rule "Mounting and Dismounting" is modified as follows: A character may only mount/dismount from/to one of the 2 hexes at the horse's sides, not from the 3 in its front arc, nor from the 3 behind it. A character may perform no other action at all in a turn in which he mounts/ dismounts. No mount/ dismount is allowed through windows or hexside doors (note that a move into a door hex is not a move throughthe door).
  2. Only enemy characters block movement through a hex, not friendly or neutral characters, nor animals (even if led by an enemy).
  3. Movement of horses and other 2-hex-units is handled like this:
    1. Movement may be done forward into one of the 3 hexes adjacent to the "head" hex (the front arc) at normal cost, the "rear" following into the former head hex.
    2. To move forward into another direction, the rider must first pivot the horse around the rear hex, paying the normal movement cost for the hex(es) passed by the head. After every 60 degree pivot, he may move normally into what is now the front arc, but he may continue to pivot as long as he likes.
    3. To move backwards is similar to forward move, only the move may be into any of the three hexes adjacent to the rear end (the rear arc), and the horse pivots around its head section. Backward movement (and pivoting around the head) doubles the normal movement cost.
    4. The rider may combine forward and backward movement as he wishes. For example, turning the horse in some narrow place could make some shifting necessary.
    5. At every moment, both hexes of the unit must be on firm ground. Even if only one half is pushed from a bridge or into the water, the whole unit falls into this hex and an adjacent hex (determined at random) and dies. The rider is dismounted, receives a "wounded" damage result (if not falling into water) and is placed beside the horse at random.
MissileAttacks & Cover:
  1. For a character in an exterior corner hex or door hex the controlling player must state, the moment he arrives in such a hex, from which side he wishes to receive cover. He may change this in every PT and, if he does not move otherwise, this changing of cover does not count as movement. If no change of cover is stated in subsequent turns the cover remains unchanged for those turns. (Doors provide cover against fire "from inside" or "from outside" only, not both.)
  2. If the cover direction is not stated, characters receive cover from the first fire directed at them in this turn (which possibly gives the attacker the option to determine which cover the defender obtains). He maintains this cover as long as he does not change it explicitly.
  3. Windows, arrow slits etc. provide cover only for fire passing through the aperture, and only if the firer is not adjacent to the window/ arrow slit.

For multiple attacks, the character(s) affected by a damage result are determined at random. This is done by rolling a die for each character in the affected group. Now, the (one or more) character(s) with the lowest die roll take(s) the damage.
There is one exception to this: If the target (infantry, horse, or rider) of a "killed" result is determined at random and the random selection determines more than one characters to be victims, only onecharacter/animal (again determined randomly) takes the full damage, for all others it is reduced to "wounded" or, in case of animals, "none". Note that this "wounded" result could result in a kill, too, if the character was not healthy before.


To minimise the need for message exchanges that only handle retreat, this rule is introduced in additionto the normal retreat rules: For retreats that result from missile fire, the retreat may be in any direction, but must end in a hex that provides at least medium cover against that firer in his current position (note that a broken line of sight provides "infinite cover"). In addition, the retreat must increase the distance to the firer by at least one hex. Also, the retreat may at no point of the path decrease the distance to the fire. In any case the full demanded number of hexes must be retreated.
Only if none of the above retreat options can be used the player is free to retreat by his own decision.

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Scenario Set-Up

Each scenario must describe:

  1. Mapboards used, i.e. mapboard name(s), and configuration (for example, "side 3 of board Village butted to side 5 of board Crossroads"), preferably with coordinates of one or two reference points to make sure everyone understands the map equally. (This is especially important in configurations with shifted board edges, which are used in at least one "Viking Raiders" scenario.) For mapboard coordinates, see the mapboard descriptions.
  2. Compass points (e.g. "side 1 of the "Village" is the north side").
  3. The set of rules used. As each game introduced a new set of rules for special terrain or equipment or persons, and updated other rules (sometimes radically), it is important to know by which rules the game is played. If not stated otherwise (above or in SSR, see below), the basic rule set of "Cry Havoc!" shall be used, even if it contains "known" errors and oddities. Advanced or optional rules must be agreed upon beforehand (or later by mutual consent, of course). Make sure from the start that both players use the same set of rules!
    (A reminder: You may want to try the consolidated and extended rules to circumvent this problem.)
  4. Order of Battle of each side, and Command Control, if used and defined by scenario. Also special equipment of each side.
  5. Set-up for all parties, sequence of action (who sets up first, who moves first).
  6. Victory conditions and game length (so many GT, or end condition).
  7. If necessary, Scenario Special Rules.
  8. If necessary, notes and examples.

If Command Control is used, each player must describe the grouping of his men in his first PT (if not defined in the set-up).

Of course, as atmosphere is an all-important thing in Cry Havoc!, you should embroider all this with some background story, as it is done in the original scenarios.

That's All, Folks! Enjoy!

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Written and published by Lutz Pietschker. Please send comments about technical problems to the site master.
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, last change 2012-01-28