Coup-De-Grace: Arena Design

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The following categories provide discussion and examples of different aspects of arena layout. Its intended as a design workshop, to give GMs and players ideas as to cool ways to vary their arenas. Nothing here is set in stone, but players should be made aware of which different rules are in play.

Be assured: you're not meant to use all these rules at once! Pick and choose the right number of extra rules to get the arena to the point where its an interesting place to have a fight, but not enough that it overshadows the warbands themselves.

Objectives and scenarios

The default set-up of coup-de-grace is two teams fighting to the death. Once you've taken the other team out of action, you win. This section chanegs that idea with the concept of scenario goals and objectives.

Consider trying out the following example scenarios.

Variant Rules relating to scenarios

Themed Warbands

Works best for GM-designed scenarios and warbands. Theme the warbands to create more narrative cohesion: e.g. orcs versus dwarves.


  • "Alignment" - For team-pick, divide minis into good, evil and neutral. A player who has picked at least one good mini cannot pick any evil ones, and vice versa.
  • "Preferred Allies" - For blind bidding, each mini you have adds +1 to the bid value of minis of its own race, and -1 to the bids of one opposed race. These modifiers affect who wins the auction, but not the cost to be paid if you win.


In games where annihilating the opposition is not the objective, there may be the ability to "respawn". At the start of each round, as that warband's first activation, the warband may restore one out-of-action mini and place it in his starting area.


This is the same as respawning, but rather than use out of action minis, the player may pick a mini from a shared "reserve pool" and bring this one into play in his starting area. This means that there'll be a new mini each turn!


Sometimes you want one or two models in a warband to stand out. A mini can be treated as being "heroic" if the scenario directs this. This gives it +3 Hit Points, and it can use each of its held weapons twice each turn instead of once. Also, it halves the MA cost of any actions from these weapons.


Equally, sometimes you want models to be represent faceless minions who are there for more competent warriors to cut down, and who are only dangerous en masse. A mini can be treated as being a "mook" if the scenario directs this. This gives it -2 Hit Points, and any attack roll made by a mook that rolls an odd number automatically misses.

Variant Objectives


Each player nominates a single model as his "King". This model gains +3 Hit Points and has its status revealed to all players.

When a warband's King is taken out of action, it loses the game. Depending on the scenario other minis in the warband may be instantly taken out of action as well, or may remain in play for the player of that warband to have a chance to affect the ongoing outcome.

At any point that only one player has a King in play, that player wins the game.

Try this objective with the reinforcements rule as above.

Capture the Flag

Each player has a "flag" placed on the board which their team must guard. Any model may spend 1 movement point to pick up a flag in an adjacent square. Doing so takes the place of whatever is in that mini's left hand. If the mini is downed or taken out of action, the flag drops in an adjacent square (dropping mini decides which one). A mini can voluntarily drop a flag in an adjacent square for 1 movement point.

When a warband brings an opposing team's flag back to a target area (maybe that team's starting area, or maybe a separate area to any players starting zone), that flag is removed from the game, and the warband wins the game. For 3+ multiplayer games, instead remove the warband whose flag is captured from the game, and continue till only one warband remains.

As variants consider the following:

  • "Murderball": One flag only, which is "neutral" and in the centre of the board. First team to bring it home wins.
  • "Defence and Attack": One flag per team, and the team's own flag starts in their starting zone.
  • "Bomb run": Teams start with a neutral flag each, but the target is their opponent's starting zone.

Capture the flag works well with the respawn rule, and can be made more chaotic with the mook rules.

Zone Capture

The arena has three or more designated zones which count as target zones. At the start of each round, a zone which only contains minis of one warband is considered to be controlled by that warband. If at the start of any round, a warband is controlling a certain number of zones (say 2 out of 3) they win.

Zone Capture works well with respawn rules, though to stop things dragging out its often a good idea to have respawns be mooks.


  • "King of the Castle" - Instead of zones, have a single square be the target area. Grant a small buff to any model on this square. A player wins if a mini he controls occupies the target area for 5 turns in a row.
  • "Endzone Attack" - Each player's starting area is a target zone. Leave off the respawn rule for this variant!

Wave Defence

The arena is set up so that one player, or the GM sends in successive waves of enemies. These turn up at regular intervals (e.g. every D6 turns).

The goal could be to survive a fixed number of waves with at least one model intact, or perhaps to survive as many turns as possible to beat a "survival high score".


  • "Tower Defence": Defending players play by points buy, and must spend half their points on buying traps, turrets, obstacles and the like from a GM provided list.
  • "Us vs Them vs Us vs Them:" Two players play simultaneously on two boards, attacking on one, defending on the other. Winner is the one who survives with his defending team the longest.


The goal here is to make a certain number of kills to win the game. Use respawn rules and state how many kills are needed to win.


  • "Escalation": Have starting forces be mooks, but respawn as standard forces, and then to respawn again as heroes.
  • "Master of Mayhem": Each mini tracks its own number of kills. To win, an individual mini needs five kills without dying itself.
  • "Chosen One's Rampage": As per Master of Mayhem, but each player gets one uber-hero, that can never be killed! If reduced to 0 or less hit points, the mini is downed, but can never be reduced below 0 HP or taken out of action.
  • "Style Bonus": With any variant, gain a bonus kill point for a kill made using various marked environmental effects (e.g. a spiked pit trap, a bonfire, etc.).

Arena shape, rooms, corridors and open spaces

You can use any game boards, dungeon tiles or even graph paper that has a grid of squares on it, but its worth putting some thought into the following:

General Principles

Encourage Movement

Nothing makes for a duller game than two teams refusing to move from their start areas. Some scenarios actively encourage a more aggressive approach, but in a default kill-battle the temptation will often be to just set up a defensive line and let the enemy come to you.
As an arena designer, you want to use tricks to discourage this. Perhaps set up the areas nearest the entrance points so that they aren't very safe. A wide open kill zone, with multiple accesses from different directions is a good starting zone, especially if its easy to set up flanking moves from protected positions at the side.
Desirable features should be placed furher in, and persistent hazards should be kept near the starting areas. Make the most beneficial environments be the ones at the centre of the board, and the most detrimental ones over the starting areas.
Early cramped space can encourage movement so that minis can be brought to bear. a 1 square wide corridor leading into an open chamber forces players either to move up into the open chamber, or to present his minis one by one.
If all else fails, consider having the board move! This can be literal, with the scenario having board sections rearrange themselves (perhaps sliding towards a more dangerous zone), or can be achieved with advancing hazards: if both teams are being pushed into the centre room by a closing ring of fire, then they'll soon start moving!

Offer Choices

The game becomes most tactically intersting if you give a choice of routes, which are equally (un)desirable. Maybe there's a shortcut between target control zones, but its across an exposed narrow bridge over lava. Maybe the corridors form a circle or figure of eight, encouraging outflanking moves for faster models.

Keep it Tight

Vast sprawling dungeon arenas may look cool, but if it takes ten turns before contact is made, there's going to be a lot of dullness before the teams end up fighting within much smaller areas.
Better by far to keep it tight from the outset. As a rule of thumb, for every mini in the battle, have the arena be 2 squares wide. So for twelve minis, the game board shouldn't be wider or longer than 24 squares. That doesn't just mean a big open space of 24 x 24 squares, of course. You can limit the number of squares further by breaking that area into rooms, corridors, hazards, obstacles and the like.

Layout Ideas

Hub and Spokes

In this set up, the main "hub" part of the arena is a large central zone, likely containing a few passive hazards, such as pits or spiked walls. If the scenario has a primary objective, it should be in the hub area.
Several "spoke" areas are attached to this central area by narrow corridors. Each player's starting area starts on one of these attached areas, and these areas are equidistant from the centre of the hub.
Additionally, there'll be other spokes, leading off into other side areas. These other side areas will have a desirable feature.
This map layout should encourage quick movement into the central area, with fast guys being sent out to other spokes to get any goodies when they can be spared.

Floating World

In this set up, the starting areas are mostly thin corridors, but the main area has larger "rooms".
The special thing here is that there are no walls, and the tile pieces are considered to be floating over a bottomless pit. Anyone who gets knocked off will be taken out of action.
This set up encourages movement away from the hazardous side areas, and into the melee in the centre.
Just in case there's no forced movement effects, its a good idea to have the central area have a feature that contains a controllable forced movement effect. Maybe a kinetic cannon emplacement that knocks back targets at huge ranges when a gunner takes place. Maybe a series of levers that cause board sections to crumble and disappear.

Ring of Fire

In this set up, the starting areas are at the periphery. As the game progresses, a by round or random effect causes outer sections of the board to become terminally hazardous or undesirable. For example, a closing ring of fire that burns instantly, or a creeping cloud of poison gas that wounds anyone in it. You can play around with different concepts that have the same effect as well. Maybe there are a series of burning torches across the arena, which go out from the periphery inwards, and anyone not within five squares of one has a 1 in 3 chance of being eaten by a grue!
The key here is that this layout is defined by the outer areas being dangerous, rather than the inner areas being desirable. Indeed, you can introduce a risk-reward element by having the most beneficial features be on the outside!

Rescue the Prisoners

In this set up, the warbands start with greatly diminished numbers, and must take action to get the rest of their warband into play. There should be opportunities to kill other people's warband members before they can get them too!
For example, consider an arena with a series of locked cells, each containing a couple of figures from the same warband. The door could be opened simply by pulling a lever outside it. If its your guys doing it, thats grand, you've expanded your warband! If its the enemy, they could slaughter your men before you can reach them!


Similar to rescue the prisoners above, except the warband is divided into multiple groups, that basically need to rescue each other! A simple two player set up would be four square rooms, set in a square pattern and linked by corridors. Each warband would then be split in half, over opposite corner rooms.
The key to success here, clearly, is to move fast and unite the two halves of your warband!

Doors, walls, cover and transport points


Consider the following tactical effects to make your arenas more interesting:

Doors as LOS blockers

Perhaps a door is just something that can be opened or closed for 1 Movement Point, which counts as an impassable square when closed and an open square when open.
Placing doors smartly in the arena can create the opportunity to limit or allow firing lanes.
If you're playing with an exploration variant, opening a door could allow a new tile section to be revealed from a prepared map.

Locked Doors

Sometimes its interesting to have doors not be easily opened. A lever could control a door being opened, making it a one way obstacle. Consider having a one way door like that opening onto a starting area, so that attackers can use it to spring a flank attack, but defenders can't access that route without going into the centre of the board.
Having a door need to be opened, and having a goodies behind it is another smart way to encourage movement, and also to persuade players to split their warbands rather than keeping them in a big clump!

Breakable Doors

These can be an alternative to locked doors, or can just be an additional way to break open a locked door!
You might treat a door as model with a a Defence Value and HP, and have attacks smash their way through. Or, you might specify that different sorts of weapons smash doors on different rolls: e.g. 4+ for double handed mauls, 5+ for other double handed weapons and spell attacks, 6+ for single handed melee weapons.


By default, walls are just lines you can't move through. You can mix this up though!

Breakable walls

See breakable doors, above. Basically the same thing as a row of breakable doors!
Its also interesting to combine this feature with an accessible effect that breaks walls. Maybe the breakable wall is near the emplaced mortar, forcing a choice. Does the mortarist bombard his enemies, or smash the wall for the goodies behind (or to release the monster behind, or to access the shortcut behind, or whatever).

Obstacles, hazards, traps and monsters

Environmental effects

Power ups, buffs and debuffs

Active Exploration

Going into three dimensions