Richard Crawley

What’s HOTT in the Land of Miniatures?

There’s a fairly active group of Gloranthan miniatures gamers in Europe ( Mostly in Britain but Gregory Privat flies the GloryGeek standard with honour in France) who go by the name of the GloryGeeks. For most of them the rules of choice are a set of generic fantasy wargames rules called Hordes of the Things. So what is HOTT (as its friends know it) and can it say anything of interest to other Glorantha fans?

Kallyr vrs Lunars

HOTT has its origins in a set of ancient wargames rules (that’s rules for playing wargames with the troop types of antiquity – not a really old set of rules) called De Bellis Antiquitatis (“Of Ancient War” I believe.). DBA set out to be an alternative to the complex, expensive, slow playing rules that then dominated ancient wargaming. Armies were reduced to just twelve stands of perhaps three or four figures each. Games were playable in an hour and armies and matching terrain could be constructed quickly and relatively cheaply.

HOTT took the basic mechanisms and said, “We can use these rules to reconstruct the battles of fantasy fiction”. In the fantasy version, Heroes are hugely powerful and can always find a mount when they need one, Paladins are unworldly and resist magic, archers are steady and resemble machineguns in their firepower, Dragons are aloof and ultimately cowardly, and giants (called Behemoths in the rules) are all too likely to crush their own troops if they recoil from an enemy. And so on for many other tropes of the fantasy genre. In some ways HOTT is to wargames what HeroQuest is to conventional RPGs.

HOTT’s unambiguous (some would say legalistic) style of writing particularly suits tournament play – though there’s little in the way of win-at-all-costs attitude on display. It was at the largest of the tournaments (at Berkeley in Goucestershire) that the idea of the GloryGeeks was born. A small group of Gloranthaphiles who had migrated to wargaming rather than RPGs realised they could recreate battles in Glorantha using HOTT rules.

In fact, there was little difficulty in merging the two. Sartarite tribesmen are clearly HOTT Warbands, Lunar hoplites are Spears and if Kallyr Starbrow isn’t a Hero my name’s not Jane Williams… erm, well, you know what I mean. One of the central principles by which most HOTT players work, however, does have something interesting to tell us here.

Lunars vrs. Praxians

As a rule we try not to introduce “house rules”. Anyone can say “Harrek is a Hero but he also acts as a Paladin and gains that class’s anti-magic ability”. You can certainly do that and because Superhero counters in Dragon Pass protect other units you’d have a case. However, you risk disturbing the game’s very finely balanced set-up. So we try instead to find a solution within the rules that achieves the result we want. My solution is to make Harrek an “ordinary” Hero and give the role of Paladin to Gunda the Guilty. Together they then make a powerful, fast-moving striking force. There’s no rules reason to keep the two elements together but tactically it’s a smart thing to do and so we end up with a scary force that can achieve great things (especially if Argrath has come along for the ride).

This shoe-horning of Gloranthan troops into HOTT categories can be fun and can produce new insights. Lurkers and Water Lurkers represent those small threats that appear so often on fantasy fiction as the hero crosses difficult terrain. They rarely determine the course of the whole story but can steer the good guys to a particular course of action. Shelob is a classic example from Tolkien.

My Sartarites are allied to the Durulz and I thought a Water Lurker would be a nice addition. It made an nice joke to make my Water Lurker a team of Duck skirmishers riding into battle on the back of a giant Triceratops. The only clue to a casual observer that this isn’t (as it appears to be) a powerful, army crushing Behemoth is the fact that it stands knee-deep in marshy water. I think Glorantha is a brighter place if travellers on the edge of the Upland Marsh can be ambushed by Ducks on dinosaurs!

A Big Battle inside and outside the walls of Pavis

There are many other examples of this creative use of a restricted palate of troop types and many other tales we could tell. With our editor’s permission I’m sure my fellow GloryGeeks will do so. Look out for the Crimson Bat as a Dragon, Trollkin as Bad Going and many more previously unsuspected aspects of the military history of our favourite cuboidal world.

If you’d like to know more about recreating Gloranthan battles with miniatures, I’d recommend the GloryGeeks Yahoogroup:

and Gregory Privat’s excellent website: