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Ortus Novae Rules

Basic Rules:

(Version 1.605 Alpha)

Ortus Novae is a simple, free, easy-to-learn, ever-evolving, 6mm scale tabletop war game in a post-apocalyptic setting. The system is designed for flexibility, allowing you to field any models you wish in large-scale wargaming with a minimum of crunch. Simply assign a die scale to your model and get out there!

Ortus Novae is fast-paced, tactical, and ends about as quickly and decisively as skirmishes with powerful, advanced weaponry usually do. The system uses polyhedral dice for scaling the power and effectiveness of units as they engage in combat with each other. There are no record sheets, no health bars and no arcane rules that have to be looked up on the fly. You can play Ortus Novae with little more than some tokens, a few RPG dice and your imagination.

The release method and accessibility of the rules are part of what makes Ortus Novae unique. Everything needed to play the game is freely available and/or encourages a DIY element. Ortus Novae is literally being built here, on this platform, before your very eyes. Check back regularly, and watch the game evolve over the course of days, weeks, months and years.


Ortus Novae encourages DIY craftiness, but you don't need to buy anything special or spend hours assembling and painting miniature armies. The result of assembling and painting your own army can be stunning and fun (just look at the pictures) but the rules are flexible enough that you can play Ortus Novae with just some tokens (or coins, or stones) and a set of RPG dice. The original concept for these rules grew out of having a lot of different miniatures from a lot of different games, and all at around 6mm in scale. How could I field them all against each other? Ortus Novae!

In the future, I will post example army guides, but for now, know that as far as miniatures go for Ortus Novae, anything goes! If you have a 3D printer or some plastic bits rolling around, anything 6mm scale that you can print, build or borrow from another game is perfect for fielding in Ortus Novae. I've playtested with proxies from several different "Epic Scale" games, and even used rubber dragons from vending machines to represent the Genetinks.

Also, I'm often asked where to find the cars I've used for the Analog faction. Thingiverse has a great selection of civilian cars you can download and print, but the ones I primarily use are injection-molded plastic architecture models (1:250 scale) purchased on Ebay. See this blog post from the guy who pioneered the idea of 6mm Gaslands for scale model info regarding the cars used for the Analog faction.

As a final note, you can use rulers to calculate distance and any splash / Area of Effect template you use should be about 3 inches in diameter. Official 3D printable versions are available here.


Every miniature on the board has a die class. These die classes typically fall into four categories: 1d4, 1d6, 1d8 and 1d10 (the number after the "d" indicating the number of sides of the die being used. Other polyhedral dice (such as 1d2, 1d3, 1d12, etc.) can be used, but are not recommended for standard play. 1d12, 1d20 and 1d100 die scales indicate titanic adversaries that are likely to completely own anything smaller they come up against.

The die class of a unit indicates almost every feature of that unit. A unit's die class indicates the point value to deploy that unit as part of an army, the combat range (in inches), the number of inches a unit can move in a turn, and the number sides on the die which the unit rolls when attacking or defending.

As an example, consider a battle car belonging to the Analog faction which falls under die class 6 (1d6.) this battle car will cost 6 points to deploy as part of a fighting force, may attack any unit within 6 inches, may move up to six inches per turn, and will roll a six-sided die in combat. Likewise, a VN Hovertank (1d10) will use 10 for all the same statistics and roll a ten-sided die in combat.

[Read more about Die Classes here.]

When playing, first decide on a number of points to use to construct your army. To start, a good, quick battle can be had with just 48 points. If this is your first time playing, using multiples of 48 can allow you to construct simple battles of Analog cars against VN drones (6x8 = 48.)

Once you have decided on the point value of the battle, spend those points by gathering units and deploying them within three inches of your chosen side of the board. If more than four players are involved, you can negotiate who deploys where, but generally, you should deploy your units only within three inches of your border. Units cannot exist or move in areas off the map.

In play, roll dice (1d6) to determine who goes first. This happens at the beginning of every turn. The player with the highest scoring roll goes first and play proceeds to the left. Reroll ties.

Units are activated in two different phases: Movement and Combat.

This first phase of every turn focuses exclusively on unit movement. During this phase, each player selects one unit and moves it any distance up to its maximum. Play proceeds this way until all players have moved all units. When calculating distance, always calculate the move distance starting from the nose of the unit or from the front of the unit base.

Units with the Air Superiority (Flying) special trait may move over any object or unit on the battlefield, including other flying units. All other units must stop when they come up against terrain features or other units, or use their remaining move to go around them.

When turning, every 90 degree turn counts as an inch of movement.

After all units have moved (or decided not to move) the combat phase begins. During this phase, each player selects one unit and may attack a target that is closer than the unit's maximum range. Play proceeds this way until all units have fired or decided not to fire. When calculating distance, always calculate the attack distance starting from the closest side of the unit. Do not use the base.

If units are between an attacker and their target, treat those units as if they were terrain features (see below,) either offering partial cover or complete cover with one exception: if the shot misses, it will have a chance to hit the unit between the attacker and the target, even if the blocking unit is friendly. Roll a new contest to see if it hits. If multiple units are in the way, roll for each as if they were fired upon.

There are no firing arcs in Ortus Novae. Units may fire at any target within 360 degrees of their position as long as it is within range.

Everything has 1 CD (chassis damage) point that it can lose (except Elite Units, which start with two.) This means that most units can only take 1 point of damage before they are destroyed.

Some Special Units use a splash damage template. All units, friendly or otherwise, which fall within that template are considered to be effected by it.

When a unit attacks, roll the die associated with that unit against the die associated with the target. The unit with the highest total wins the contest, and if the result is a tie, the attacker wins. If the attacker wins, the defender takes 1 Chassis Damage and is presumably destroyed. If the defender wins the contest, it was either too nimble or too tough and nothing happens.

If a terrain feature is taller than at least one of the units in the combat, then it is considered to block line of sight. Targets outside of line of sight can still be attacked, at a penalty of -4 to the attacker's roll. If terrain does not block line of sight, then it provides cover, offering a penalty of -1 to attackers roll. If part of the target is sticking out from behind a terrain feature, then it is only in basic cover and only gains the advantage of the -1 penalty.

Play proceeds in two-phase turns (as detailed above) until all units on one side are destroyed. The player with units remaining on the board at the end of the game is the victor.


Air Superiority (Flying)
Flying units get +1 to all stats (including the point cost to field them) regardless of the die scale value of the craft. Flying units may fly over other units (and terrain) on the field. As a general rule of thumb, a miniature with a flying base is considered a flying unit.

Elite (Leaders)
Elite Units start with two dice instead of one, but can lose one if damaged by a successful hit. While the unit has two dice (undamaged) it may roll both (whenever instructed to roll) and pick the highest of the two results to use. If it is damaged, it rolls only one, like any other unit.
Elite units cost 1.5x die value (round up if using odd number dice)

Hyperwave Suppression Unit (HSU)
Automatically hits every unit touched by a splash template. The HSU is the only weapon on the unit. Being hit by the HSU keeps a unit from moving on its next turn. HSU units have double the attack range and cost 1.5x the die value (round up if using odd number dice) to field.

Thrusters (Fast)
Benefit: May move a second time during the combat phase instead of attacking. Downside: Thruster Units must move at least three inches every turn. +1 pt to cost to field.

Boomer (Explosive)
Sacrificial unit. No weapons, but can detonate on command. Use splash template to determine units affected by the blast. Use the chosen die of the Boomer unit and add +3 to move (and +3 to attack roll when detonating.) Roll against every unit in the splash template individually.

Artillery (Combat Boost)
Instead of firing as normal, artillery units may link up with another unit within their attack range (that second unit serving as a spotter) and add their die to the spotter unit's die in the next combat roll. As an example, a d8 Artillery Unit could add a d8 to the combat roll of a single designated unit within 8 inches of the Artillery Unit. Cannot be paired with an HSU or linked in a chain of Artillery Units. Artillery units cost 1.5x die value (round up if using odd number dice)

Tactician (Strategic Flexibility)
Instead of firing as normal, Tactician units may add their die to your roll for initiative at the beginning of a turn. Roll all of the initiative dice together and pick the one result of your choice.
Tactician units cost 1.5x die value (round up if using odd number dice.)

Lightning Guns (Hit-Chaining)
When attacking, if this special unit destroys a unit, you may make an additional attack roll against another unit within 1 inch of the unit you've just destroyed. There is no limit to the number of units that can be involved in this chain, but each new unit must be within 1 inch if the last one. Units with Lightning Guns cost 1.5x die value (round up if using odd number dice.)

Carrier/Swarm (Transport)
Instead of firing as normal, Carrier/Swarm units may deploy one 1d4 unit on any side (touching the Carrier/Swarm unit base.) They may also pick up 1d4 units that are touching the Carrier's base at any time as a free action and carry them. The maximum capacity of a Carrier/Swarm unit is its die value (i.e. 10 units in a d10 unit.) All Carrier/Swarm units start at full capacity, and if the Carrier/Swarm unit is destroyed, half the units inside (round up) are also destroyed. Carrier/Swarm units cost 2x die value.

Epic Units: (d12/d20/d30/d100)
Anything truly huge in scale should fall into one of these categories. Not recommended, but can be used in play. This is a good category for fielding larger-scale miniatures against a lot of smaller-scale ones.

Multiple Traits
In Ortus Novae, one can certainly field units with multiple special traits from the list above. When calculating the cost to field a unit, start by adding any individual points first, then add multipliers in a descending calculation (proceeding from the highest modifier to the lowest.) Round up any odd numbers to the nearest even number.

Examples of units with multiple traits might be a missile drone (d4+Flying+Thrusters+Explosive), or an Elite Flying HSU unit.


The Analogs:
When the VN virus hijacked all of humanity's extensively networked technology and turned everything "smart" against us, the survivors who weren't talented enough, rich enough or lucky enough to get a ticket to the moon fell back on the one thing they did have: old cars, old electronics and old ways of doing things.

There is no one leader among The Analogs, and few alliances between tribes, factions, or whatever a given group of madmen want to call themselves. Most groups raid each other as often as they raid and attack VN drones and Printer Factories. Most of the survivors who could be classified as Analogs are adrenaline junkies, speed freaks and militia men, and with no central authority, no regulation and no laws, most Analog groups field packs of deadly, noisy, garishly-painted war cars (and trucks, and buses and rigs) which they use to devastating effect. Every Analog "Leader" is a warlord, a priest and self-proclaimed president of the world, at least until someone else comes along to challenge that authority.

Special Ability: Keep On Truckin'
(Once per turn, at the end of your turn, you may cancel the destruction of one d6 car which has no special modifications. Re-deploy this car at the border of your side of the board.)

Variants: Tribal
There is no centralized leadership between Analog packs, though the occasional "King of the World" does rise up among them to unite several tribes. Inter-tribal warfare is common, and packs of war cars have been known to clash in the wastes.

The VNs
When humanity tested its first faster-than-light (FTL) ship, we woke something which basically ruined our whole day, our week, our month and every year since. Billions of years ago, someone put a probe in our solar system that was designed to keep us down, probably because whoever built it didn't want any competition when it came to colonizing and mining the galaxy. Whether or not whoever built the probe is still around is a matter for scholarly debate. What isn't up for debate is that the virus from that probe is here, now, and it's trying to kill us all with our own technology.

In the beginning, the weapons of the VNs were all smart cars and drone bombs, but once the virus started getting hold of our automated factories, all of that changed. These days, the VNs are a very simplistic force of mass-produced war machines guided by a single simple, predatory intelligence that seems intent on making sure humanity never reaches the pinnacle of technological achievement we had once achieved. These combat machines are built in pop-up 3d printing facilities that turn the iron and steel of humanity's fallen achievements into cheap, fast, easily produced tools for warfare against the human race. Look closely, and you can see the seams on the printed drones. It's said that if you hit them just right and just hard enough, they explode and unravel into curlicues of steel spaghetti.

Special Ability: Machine Reflexes
(Once per turn, you may activate any one unit a second time (for movement and combat) at the end of your turn.)

Variants: Mutations
The VN virus is remarkably stable, but mutations do still occur. Usually these mutations are as simple as differing armor colors between units caused by the use of differing available materials for scavenging and printing new drones. However, occasionally a printer facility will break free from the hive mind and go rogue. These rogue printers pump out their own strain of VN drones, and these new strains can sometimes come into conflict with the main strain of the virus and its horde of war machines.

The Digitals
Most of the humans of the wastes can be classified as Analogs, but a few with extensive knowledge of classic hacking techniques have gone in a different direction entirely. Uploading themselves into secret computer mainframes and knitting their consciousnesses together with AI coding, the Digitals wage a quiet war against the VNs that spans the length and breadth of the global wireless network. Each Digital leader is like a god, a series of nested transhuman intelligences working together as a single more complex mind. In the field of battle, they are masters of electronic warfare, and field machine units like the VNs, but mashed together with whatever salvaged weaponry they can find. If their chaotic builds were not enough to identify them as a separate force from the VNs, they are also often painted in garish colors and covered with witty sayings or funny memes.

Special Ability: Eyes In The Sky
(+2 to weapon range and move distance.)

Variants: Pantheon
Every mind among the Digitals is capable of fielding an army with god-like drive and precision. Also like gods, these minds can be capricious, with unknowable goals that sometimes put them into conflict with other Digital minds.

The Aesinjur
When the VNs started wiping everyone out, the rich went to the moon. Once there, they discovered ancient and highly-advanced alien technology that drove them to explore as far out as Mars and Charon. Research went full-bore into ultra-tech solutions aimed at overcoming, controlling and out-maneuvering the VNs, and society's reorganization took a back seat. In the past several decades, the people on the moon have gone through a dozen totalitarian regimes each more strict than the last. With most of the population now being vatgrown clones, civil rights are at an all-time-low, but so is dissent. The few Earth survivors still alive on the moon watch from the shadows, playing political games with each other using elite forces of "Valkyries" (cloned female warriors honed to a razor edge using advanced technology.) The people of the moon like to state that they are a unified nation, but the truth is that every Earth survivor on Luna is a tyrant, and the Valkyries end up fighting each other in ego wars almost as often as they are sent to Earth in isolated missions of conquest.

Valkyries are rarely seen on Earth, and when they are, they are almost always part of expeditionary forces unsupported by the rest of their people on the moon. The reason for the lack of support is that most decisions on the moon are done by survivor consensus, and when one survivor sends a detachment of Valkyries to Earth as part of a publicity stunt to film moon troops obliterating VN drones, the other survivors tend to do everything they can to hamstring the project out of fear of one among their number gaining too much influence and too much advantage over the others. Most of the leaders on the moon see the Analogs (and anyone else on the surface) as backward and dirty, and probably just as much in need of extermination as the VNs are.

 Special Ability: Technological Edge
(Once per turn, you may re-roll one die.)

Variants: VaNir

Beyond the petty rivalries and dissent of the Lunar Leaders, there are groups of Aesinjur with altogether different beliefs and goals that diverge wildly from the rest of the people of the moon. One such group is known as the VaNir. Led by a shadowy figure known only as "The VaNadis," the VaNir see the VN scourge as a force of nature, like a storm, instead of as a direct threat or an invasion. Of all the lunar factions, they have been most successful in controlling VN technology, and have even managed to field VN units in combat with other Lunar factions.

The GeneTinks
While the Aesinjur went with ultra-tech and the Analogs went backward technologically, the GeneTinks went in a different direction entirely. Developing biotechnology to a new pinnacle of achievement, the scientists who make up the GeneTinks augment their bodies and play with their own genetic codes, growing themselves into massive war beasts, dragons, unicorns, and anything else their wild minds can conjure.

Special Ability: Spontaneous Mutation
(If you destroy a Special Unit, you may place one of its traits on one of your units of the same or greater die value.)

Variants: Rogue Geneticists
GeneTinks are generally a pretty educated and open-minded lot, but occasionally one of their own will go way off the deep end and do something immoral or radical enough that it distances them from their peers. These rogue geneticists have been known to build their own armies of flesh-beasts, cyber-dinosaurs, fire giants, shark hurricanes or any number of other horrors they can use to shape the world to their own twisted image of paradise.


[Optional Rules - Click Here]

[Optional Rules - Click Here]


VN Drones clash with Analog war cars.
Also pictured, proxy units for VN interceptors and VN heavy tanks.
Original models for these proxies by Dutch Mogul of Ill Gotten Games

A last, desperate assault.
Also pictured, proxy units for VN interceptors and VN heavy tanks.
Original models for these proxies by Dutch Mogul of Ill Gotten Games


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