Low Maintenance Italian Wars Campaign

This is a low maintenance system for running a multi-player Italian Wars wargames campaign between a Spanish team and a French team. It requires an umpire.

The game provides a context in which table top wargames are played, however it also attempts to capture some unique features of warfare during the Italian Wars. Faction fighting amongst the Italians, fickle mercenaries, devastating attrition that meant generals often preferred to wait and watch their enemy dissolve than to risk a battle, and sieges all played a considerable part in the Italian Wars, and these rules try to recreate this.

This system was inspired by the following article, although has diverged considerable from this starting point:

Johnson, J. (2003 June). An Italian Wars Campaign. Wargames Illustrated, 185, 61-63.

Set Up


Umpire draws a map with:

  • A road network .
  • Locations on the road network including
    • Settlements
      • About 5 cities
      • About 7 towns
      • About 9 minor towns
    • Camp sites. There should be from 0 (most common) to 3 (very rare) camp sites on roads between pairs of settlements. These are just a mechanism for dividing longer roads into standard marches.
  • A river system.
  • A capital city for both the Spanish and French.

Master Map

Umpire copies the map and then amends the master map with:

  • Settlement Allegiances. Throw 1d6: 1-2 Pro-French, 3-4 neutral, 5-6 Pro-Spanish. Capitals are always pro-their side.


Umpire finds players and a C-in-C for each side.


Each side assigns Armies:

  1. Team divides available forces into 3 to 5 Armies. The compositions can’t be changed during the campaign, although losses will reduce the army and recruitment can bring it back up to strength. All Armies start in the side’s capital.
  2. C-in-C assigns each Army to a player.
  3. C-in-C divides the Treasury (1,500 florins total) amongst the war chests of the Armies. The War Chest is used to pay for things such as bribery, garrisons, siege trains, etc.


Each player chooses two Talents from the following list:

Talent Name Effect
Spying Spy Master Discount of 25 florins on all spying questions.
Diplomacy Diplomat +1 on Sponsoring Faction rolls.
Charisma +1 on Bribing Mercenaries rolls, and
-1 on enemy Bribing Mercenaries rolls against own army
Wealth Patron Unlike other players, Wealthy players can go into debt. This represents drawing upon their own finances to support the national cause. The debt can never exceed 150 florins.
Logistical Administrator +1 on Movement rolls
Tactical Great Captain Start with a larger army (on the assumption that tactical ability equates to more troops once in the field)


Umpire chooses the week of the year to start in and the turns commence.

Turn sequence

Each turn is a week and comprises:

  1. Write and submit Orders
  2. Finances & Intrigue: Garrisons, Recruitment, Spying, Sponsoring and Bribing
  3. Determine movement initiative
  4. Forced marches and assaults
  5. Normal marches and assaults
  6. Open battles
  7. Sieges
  8. Supply and Overcrowding

Note: Weeks 1-9 (Jan/Feb) and 49-52 (Dec) are winter.

1. Write and submit orders

A player may make one order each turn, and the order must specify the following information:

Order Order must specify
Move The army’s route of march, if a forced march is being attempted, and if an assault is being attempted on the final destination settlement. .
Spy The question and how many florins are being spent.
Sponsorship factions The settlement and how many florins are being spent.
Bribe mercenaries Which army is the target and how many florins are being spent on the bribe.
Besiege How many florins are being spent on siege train and/or treachery.
Recruit How many florins are being spent.
Garrison The settlement and how many florins are being spent.

If a player does not submit orders they are assumed to do nothing that turn.


  • My army moves from Treviso to Livorno to Lonello using a forced march.

2. Finances & Intrigue


A player can top up the garrison of any friendly settlement, even if they are not present. The player pays a florin for each point of garrison they want to add. The umpire must keep a record of this. The minimum garrison size is 50 points, however, the maximum garrison size depends on the type of settlement.

Settlement Maximum Garrison
Capital City 200
City 150
Town 100
Minor town 75

For simplicity garrisons can never be reduced by the owning side.


If the army is in supply, new recruits can be purchased with florins and will join the army after 1d6 turns. The army can never exceed the original size; any surplus recruits are lost.


A player may pay 50, 75 or 100 florins to ask the umpire a question, any question. The quantity of florins paid affects the quality of the answer. A specific question will get a specific answer, and similarly for vagueness. Possible questions:

Question Vagueness Comment
What is the size of the enemy garrison in Verona? Specific Specific location requiring one word answer.
Is the city of Ancona friendly to us and so susceptible to bribery? Specific Specific location requiring one word answer.
Where is the nearest enemy Army? Middling No specific location, but at least only asking about one army.
Where are all the enemy Armies? Vague ??

A play who has a talent for Spying pays 25 florins less for asking questions.

Sponsor factions

The Italian cities were full of rival factions and the French and Spanish used this to their advantage. A player may attempt to sway the residents of a settlement to the allegiance of his team by subsidizing their faction in the city. Capital cities can not be influenced in this manner.

The base cost to sponsor factions is:

  • 200 florin for a city,
  • 100 for a town, and
  • 75 for a minor town.
Roll (1d6) Result
2 or less No effect.
3-5 Faction gains in strength: the settlement’s allegiance improves one step, i.e. from neutral to pro-attacker, or from pro-defender to neutral.
6 or more Faction takes power: the settlement’s allegiance improves one step (as above), residents destroy any enemy garrison, and install a citizen garrison of 50 points loyal to the attacker.

The roll is modified as follows:

Modifier Cause
-1 If garrison is over half the maximum for the type of settlement (over 50 for a minor town)
-1 Settlement is pro-defender
+1 Settlement is pro-attacker
+1 Each additional 25 florin paid in sponsorship
+1 Player has diplomacy talent

Bribe mercenaries

The wars are full of incidents were mercenaries went on strike, went home, or changed sides. A player may attempt persuade mercenaries in an enemy army to strike or desert. A bribery attempt has a base cost of 50 florins.

Roll (1d6) Result
4 or less No effect (but thanks for the cash)
5-6 Mercenaries strike or leave for home: Enemy army takes minor losses.
7 or more Mercenaries desert: Enemy army takes minor losses, and the army of the bribing player increases by the same amount.

The roll is modified as follows:

Modifier Cause
-1 Current employer has a bigger war chest (after the bribe) *
-1 Current employer is Charismatic
+1 Briber is Charismatic
+1 Briber has a bigger war chest (after the bribe) *
+1 Each additional 50 florins paid in bribes
+1 Briber and mercenaries are in same location

* This reflects the general impression of the players are successful and their on-going capability to pay wages.

3. Determine movement initiative

Movement, both forced marches and normal marches, is sequential. Determine the order of movement randomly.

4. Forced Marches

An army may attempt to forced march to move faster and/or further. A forced march is treated exactly like a normal march except:

If the forced march is successful

  • The army incurs minor losses due to attrition on the march.
  • If the orders specify a second destination,the army will try to reach the second destination using its normal march.

If the forced march fails:

  • The army will attempt to reach the same destination using its normal march move.

Forced marches – like normal marches – can also specify an assault on the final destination.

Example: If the order is “My army moves from Treviso to Livorno to Lonello using a forced march”, the army will end up at Lonello if both the forced march and normal march succeed, at Livorno if either one of them succeeds, or might even remain at Treviso if neither succeed. The army takes minor losses if the forced march succeeds.

Example: If the order is “My army will forced march from Treviso to Livorno to assault Lonello”, has the same effect as the previous example, but if the the army makes it to Lonello it will immediately assault the town (assuming there is no defending army).

Example: If the order is “My army will forced march from Treviso to Livorno” it is assumed that if the forced march fails the army will attempt a normal march to reach its destination. The army takes minor losses if the forced march succeeds.

5. Normal Marches

All Armies must be at a specific location, either at a settlement or a camp site, never in between. It takes one march, representing a normal weeks travel with rest days, for an army to move between locations.

Movement is not guaranteed so roll a die for each movement attempt.

Roll (1d6) Result
2 or less Unavoidable delays prevent movement.
3 – 6 Move 1 march on the map.

The roll is modified as follows:

Modifier Cause
-2 Moving in Winter
-1 A friendly army has already moved along the same road in the same direction this week (it being assumed one force has to follow behind the other with a day or two gap)
+1 Player has logistical ability


A movement order, either a normal or forced march, can optionally specify an assault on an enemy held settlement if that is the final destination of the move. If the army does not reach the final destination, then no assault is possible that turn. See the siege section for how to resolve assaults.

Encountering enemy armies

If enemy armies end up in the same location, further movement that turn – including assaults – is aborted for both armies.

However, if the enemy armies started the turn together they both have the option to move away. Either army may leave along any route out of the location except the defender – the army that reached the location first – can prevent the attacker leaving along a route the involves a river crossing relative to their original arrival route.

6. Open battle

If enemy armies are in the same location either side may elect to instigate an open battle as per the tactical rules. But this is optional and it is conceivable that two armies occupy the same location for several weeks before deciding to resolve the issue. When battle is take to the tabletop the defender – if it matters to the rules – is the army that reached the location first.

The victor, if any, gains florins for his war chest:

  • 400 for a major victory,
  • 300 for a moderate victory,
  • 200 for a minor victory

7. Sieges

Sieges (and assaults) are resolved by a die roll:

Roll (1d6) Result
0 or less Attacker takes minor losses.
1 – 3 Siege continues
4 or more Settlement taken. The victor gains florins for his war chest,

  • 400 for a Capital City,
  • 300 for a City,
  • 200 for a town, and
  • 150 for a minor town.

The roll is modified as follows:

Modifier Cause
-2 In winter
-2 City or Capital City (because of better fortifications)
-1 Town (because of better fortifications)
-1 Settlement is pro-defender
+1 Settlement is pro-attacker
+1 For each 25 florins the attacker spent on a siege train that week *

* This modifier is not used for assaults.

8. Supply and Overcrowding

Supply is influenced by having intact lines of communications and by overcrowding.

An army’s line of communication is a route to their capital city via contiguous locations that are empty of enemy armies and are either:

  • settlements with friendly garrisons or
  • camp sites

Overcrowding occurs when two or more armies, friendly or otherwise, are in the same location for more than a week

An army that has a broken line of communication or is overcrowded rolls on the following table:

Roll (1d6) Result
0 or less Army takes moderate losses.
1 – 3 Army takes minor losses.
4 or more No effect

The roll is modified as follows:

Modifier Cause
-2 Winter
+1 Player has logistical talent

Tactical rules

You can use any tactical rules you like with this campaign system, so I’ve tried to write the rules in a general fashion. I’ve included examples for DBA, Condensed DBM or DBR (i.e. using 100 point armies), and full DBM or DBR.

Losses have been described in general terms; just figure out what it means in the rules you’re using – guidelines are given in the table.

Factor DBA Condensed
Initial team forces 45 elements 375 AP 1500 AP
Recruitment Cost 1 element = 33 Florins 1 AP = 4 Florins 1 AP = 1 Florin
Minor Losses 1/16 to 1/12 of army 1 element 6 AP 25 AP
Moderate Losses 1/8 to 1/6 of army 2 elements 12 AP 50 AP
Severe Losses 1/4 of army 3 elements . 25 AP 100 AP

Optional Rules

Italian Players

Rather than just having Spanish and French team, you could include one or more independent Italian players (Venice, Papal, Florence, Milan are all contenders). They get a smaller force to start with (12 DBA elements, 100 AP in condensed DBM or DBR, or 400 AP in full DBM or DBR) and only 400 Florins in their war chest. Such a player can join either side during the course of the campaign, but can only be with one side or other in any particular turn. They can also ally with other independent Italians to form a third team.

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