By Mike Scheid

Even a superficial reading of the rules for Hyborian War will reveal the feet that it is through each kingdom's characters that most game actions are accomplished. Exceptions to this rule will be dealt with at the end of this article. Characters are the backbone of each player position. For each character that a kingdom possesses, the player may write a command order which determines what that particular character will do during the following turn. Choosing the right orders for each character is a crucial and somewhat subtle aspect of play, requiring foresight and planning. The purpose of this article is to help you evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your characters, and thereby learn how to get the best effects from their efforts.


For what is to follow I am deeply indebted to HW game designer, Ed Schoonover. I made up my own system for evaluating the characters and sent it to Ed, asking for his comments. What I got back was a mind-boggling analysis that far surpassed my own efforts. To begin with, each of the six character types has one or two attributes which are primary for their vocation. Table One shows these.

Table One: Characters' Primary Abilities

Table One: Characters' Primary Abilities
General Military Command/Heroism
Noble Rulership/Military Command
Hero Personal Combat/Heroism
Priest Diplomacy/Rulership/Intrigue/Magic
Wizard Magic/Any other ability better than adequate.
Agent Intrigue/Personal Combat

Most of the items in Table One should be self-explanatory. It is just common sense that a General's most important asset is his/her ability to command the troops. Priests are something of an exception and therefore harder to evaluate. Religion plays a part in the overall morale of a kingdom or province and the priests tend to become involved in a number of activities. Rather than do one thing particularly well they are able to do many things fairly well.

Table Two gives some numerical formulae for statistical evaluation of characters.

Table Two: Ability Valuation
If Primary Ability If Not
Highest Ability x 3 2
Next Highest x 2 1
Next Highest x 1 1/2
Next Highest x 1/2 1/4

Attribute Rankings
None 0
Poor 1
Adequate 2
Good 3
Excellent 4
Superior 5
NOTE: These tables were originally created by Mike Scheid in 1987, based upon feedback that he got from Hyborian War game designer Ed Schoonover.

Notes regarding use of Table Two. If a character has two attributes of equal ranking and one of those is a primary ability, it will be valued higher. If magic is not valued as one of the 4 highest skills, add one point for each spell the character can cast. Priests are an exception to the table, Diplomacy, Rulership, Intrigue and Magic are all valued at l'/2 while Military Command, Personal Combat and Heroism are valued at 1. Finally there are some especially powerful magic spells that should be considered above and beyond the normal values. They are Black Death, Bless, Prophecy, Long Life and Reincarnate. Bless and Prophecy each add 1 to a character's value, while the others add 1 for each 3 times the character is able to cast the remaining spells.

The following example will help to put all of the above into perspective. I will be drawing from my own kingdom of Hyperborea for the examples, but the system will apply to any character. Khalem Kaletar is Hyperborea's lone hero at the beginning of the game. His abilities are as follows:

Personal Combat: Superior
Diplomacy: Poor
Rulership: Good
Military Command: Poor
Heroism: Adequate
Intrigue: None
Magic: Poor (Personal Combat Spell - Strength)

His four highest abilities, in order, are Personal Combat, Rulership, Heroism and Diplomacy. Since Personal Combat and Heroism are primary abilities they are valued more highly than the others. Thus we get:

Superior Personal Combat
(5 X 3 = 15)
Good Rulership
(3 X 1 = 3)
Adequate Heroism
(2 X 1 = 2)
Poor Diplomacy
(1 X 1/4 = 1/4)
Plus 1 for Magic Spell
21 1/4

One more example should be sufficient. Vord Khotalr is a Priest whose abilities are:

Personal Combat: None
Diplomacy: Superior
Rulership: Poor
Military Command: Poor
Heroism: Adequate
Intrique: Excellent
Magic: Poor (Strategic Magic Spell-Rains)

To arrive at a value for Vord Khotalr we take:

Superior Diplomacy
(5 X 1 1/2 = 7 1/2)
Excellent Intrigue
(4 X 1 1/2 = 6)
Adequate Heroism
(2 X 1 = 2)
Poor Rulership
(1 X 1 1/2 = 1 1/2)
Plus 1 for Magic Spell

One of the reasons for evaluating the relative worth of your characters can be seen by comparing the two Hyperborean characters used in the examples. At the beginning of the game Khalem Kaletar is a young adult while Vord Khotalr is already an old man. Since the game itself covers many years, even centuries, characters will grow old and die during the course of the game. One way to postpone the inevitable is through the use of Long Life spells. Now it just so happens that Hyperborea has a wizard who can cast Long Life and thereby extend the life span of another character. However, the rules state that Long Life spells may only be cast during Peace Years turns, which are, on the average, one of every 6 turns. On Turn number one, who should be the recipient of the Long Life spell? Khalem Kaletar hopefully has a long and useful life ahead of him, so although he is a more valuable character according to the valuation he does not need help now. Vord Khotalr however may die soon, his value should be weighed against other old characters in the realm to determine who shall be rejuvenated.

Another possible use for the character valuations is in deciding which of two characters with equal abilities in a certain area should undertake a dangerous mission. Let's assume that you want to send someone to spy on a neighboring kingdom. You have two characters, neither of whom is an agent, with good intrigue ability. Since spying is a dangerous affair in which characters can be captured or killed, you might want to send the character of lesser overall value if he/she is capable of doing the job. That leads us right into the next section of this article.

II. Analysis of Characters by Type

A. Generals - with primary abilities in Military Command and Heroism, it is clear that Generals will be put to best use in commanding an army. There are several options for such command. At the beginning of the game each kingdom, regardless of size, has at least two Imperial Armies. (Note: one of your Imperial "Armies" may actually be a Navy.) In addition you will have one Provincial Army for each province under your control. Imperial Armies may be placed on Active or Defensive status, while Provincial Armies are always primarily defensive. Generals may be placed in command of any of these armies simply by issuing the order to "Join Army" and specify which army. The advantage to having a General in command of a provincial army would come if you assigned that army to the task of raiding a neighboring province. Armies which raid tend to be much more effective with good leadership.

There are some important points to consider when assigning Generals to Imperial Armies. If you are planning an invasion then you must follow a procedure that takes three turns. On the first turn you will declare an intent to invade and specify the province which you intend to invade. In order to carry out the invasion you must have an active Imperial Army in a province adjacent to the one you plan to invade, You would also be wise to command a General to join the invading army. The reason for that becomes clear on the second turn, when your army engages in the strategic movement phase of the invasion. Your forces will attempt to pin the enemy in whatever terrain you have specified and the command ability of your General will be a major factor in determining whether or not they are successful.

Finally, when battle is joined the General in command will be assigned to a position on the field with one of your troop units. If you assign him to the front line he risks death at the worst or at best, being so distracted by heavy fighting that his overall ability to direct the battle is hindered. A commanding General needs to be sufficiently close to the front to know what is going on, but far enough away to be safe.

B. Nobles - the forte of the Noble character is rulership. This is an aspect of play that you cannot afford to overlook. The condition of your kingdom's treasury depends to a large degree on the revenue produced by the provinces under your control. Raising troops and waging war is an expensive proposition which will deplete the treasuries of even the largest and wealthiest countries. One of the ways to offset these expenses is by assigning your provincial rulers to active ruler-ship. This is a command order which is easily overlooked. The temptation is great to assign a noble to a more exciting task than active rule. Before you do so, take a look at the Province section of your kingdom report. You will see in that section the degree of loyalty which the province feels toward the throne and the ability of the province to generate revenue for the kingdom. Not only will active rule enhance these factors, but if the people become dissatisfied with their ruler they may even revolt.

I have found it to be a general rule that the better a character's ability rating in rulership, the less time he/she need spend in actively ruling. When assigning provincial rulers to newly conquered provinces, remember that Nobles inherently do a better job of ruling than any other character.

C. Heroes - there is simply no way around the fact that Heroes love to go adventuring. Sooner or later, even if you have assigned your hero to a different task, he/she will take off to see what adventure might be found in the big wide world. This is a fascinating aspect of Hyborian War, for when a hero goes adventuring, anything can happen. I sent my hero adventuring on the very first turn, which represented two years of peace. During that time he engaged in five separate adventures, each time risking life and limb. The actual adventure encounter is determined randomly by the computer, but nothing is sacred. An adventuring hero may encounter wandering monsters, bands of brigands or other characters, both from player kingdoms and non-player kingdoms. So far in Game 1 my hero has killed a wizard of another player's kingdom, a wizard of a non-player kingdom and raided the treasury of a player kingdom.

The other primary use for heroes is to aid your army when it is engaging in battle. Of course this will be more effective if said hero has some military command ability. Finally, from time to time an enemy might kidnap one of your characters and hold him/her for ransom. When this occurs you may want to send your hero on a rescue mission instead of paying the ransom.

D. Priests - In Hyborian War, priests are the "Jacks of all trades, masters of none." Nevertheless they are important characters. By kidnapping or assassinating the priests of a neighboring province, you can weaken the morale of the people and make conquest of that province easier. Priests also tend to be natural diplomats, an ability which can be of great aid. It is possible in Hyborian War to negotiate peace treaties with other kingdoms. If the negotiations are successful, the kingdom who signs a peace treaty is prevented from invading you until after the next peace years turn. Thus even the armies of great nations may be turned back from the smallest of countries by a good diplomat.

If diplomats possess some Intrigue ability they may also spy out the characters of another nation or attempt to foment unrest among the people of that nation. My advice would be to try some of these actions and monitor the results. Through trial and error you will discover what your character can do best.

E. Wizards - the realm of Magic belongs to the Wizard. The game system divides the twenty seven available spells into eight general types. There are: Personal Combat spells, Strategic Spells, Battle spells, Province spells, Life spells, Information spells, Diplomacy spells and Anti-Magic spells. All of these have their uses. The number of spells which each Wizard is able to cast, as well as the effectiveness of any given spell, is determined by the Wizard's ability in Magic. The numbers which were given in table Two for attribute rankings also apply here, with one exception. There are some rare instances of Wizards with Superior magic ability who possess six spells, one more than might be expected. These are the truly powerful magicians.

The use of most magic spells is straight forward except for one possible area. The procedure for using wizards to assist armies in battle is slightly complicated, but must be followed exactly for the wizard to be of greatest benefit. Wizards, or any characters, which are going to assist an army in an invasion must be assigned to that army on or before the turn during which the army engages in strategic movement. Assigning a character to an army on the eve of battle, (i.e. on the turn during which battle will actually be fought) will always result in wasted effort on die pan of the character to reach the battlefield. In addition to issuing the command for a wizard to join the army during the strategic movement phase, if you wish that wizard to cast any strategic spells which he/she has in order to aid the army's movement you must also issue declarations for each wizard to prepare whatever strategic spell you wish him/her to use.

F. Agents - these are silent eyes and ears, through whom much can be accomplished. Agents can spy out information from other kingdoms, counterspy against agents working in your kingdom, attempt to assassinate other characters, perform kidnappings and foment unrest. Perhaps more than any other character type die whole range of character abilities comes into play when determining how to use your agents.

Some examples: you may assign an agent to spy out the military status of any enemy kingdom. Intrigue ability is a must, but if that agent has little ability in military command he/she will not find much useful information. For court spying diplomacy and rulership are helpful attributes. If you assign an agent to the task of assassination, you had better make sure that your agent has personal combat ability to equal or exceed the intended target.

The bottom line for actions of intrigue is, if your character does not have the accompanying abilities to complete the task you had better give the job to someone else. World spying and province counter-spying tend to be less demanding than most other assignments. One of my agents with only adequate intrigue failed at court spying, failed at military spying, failed at an attempted assassination and finally succeeded in counterspying the kingdom. Use your imagination when commanding your agents.

III. Things that Characters Cannot Do

At the beginning of the article I mentioned that there were one or two exceptions to the rule that all game actions are accomplished through your characters. I have already touched on this in passing by making the distinction between a Command and a Declaration.

Commands are the specific orders issued to your characters. Each character may only receive one command per turn. In addition, the command to join an army does not have to be repealed. Once you assign a character to an army that character will remain with the army until given a new command. However, if you wish the character to remain with the army do not command them to do something else on a subsequent turn because that command will supersede the join army command.

Declarations are not directed to a character, but are just general statements of intent. Intents to raid or invade are issued through declarations. Other possible declarations include the making and breaking of alliances, the raising of new troop units, changing the status of your army, sending a gift to a friendly country or moving your characters from place to place.

One of the reasons for moving a character is to keep them from being kidnapped or assassinated. In order to perform either of those actions The player issuing the order must know the location of the intended victim. Characters who move from time to time are harder to locate.

IV. Concluding Remarks

Hyborian War is a marvelously complex game with a multitude of factors which affect play. Many of these factors are not readily apparent until they come into play as a result of unusual circumstances. In Game #1, I have seen many players concentrate solely on raising troops with which to fight great battles only to be thwarted by good diplomacy or their own kingdom's rapidly dwindling treasury. One large kingdom tried at an early stage in the game to Conscript troops into the Imperial armies before active rulership had built up the provincial loyalties lo a safe level. The result was internal revolt and chaos in several provinces. My advice to would be rulers of Hyborian kingdoms is to treat each and every character as a valuable national resource, and put them to good use.

HYBORlAN WAR is owned and operated by Reality Simulations, Inc..
©1985, 2006 Reality Simulations, Inc.

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