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The Viking Legal Team in Action
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Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sept 13, 2017 Feudal [Late Dark Ages] Rules

Charge! There's no Rules Glitches to stop us now!
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These are the latest version of my rules as of 13 SEP 2017. Updates from 21 AUG are:

  1. Added Board Edge as impassible terrain,
  2. Retreat is now always a Fast Move straight back, for simplicity,
  3. Defending Terrain is now always half hits, for simplicity,
  4. Several small clarifications of language with no rule change.

I'm very pleased with how they've progressed and been cleaned up. Many useful suggestions have been made, and much attention has been given to the subtle details of mechanics so you will have few moments when it isn't clear what the design intent is - and for those, you can use the Triple Zed rule and then fire a message to me!

The intent is to put the player in the role of commander and give him decisions to make at that level, ones that really matter and affect the outcome. While it is possible to lose - or win - with the dice, generally the better player will win 3-4 out of 5 times with these rules, usually by thinking ahead a couple turns and paying attention to the scenario victory conditions.

They've been playtested extensively with strangers: veterans and newbies alike. Some of the scenarios have been played as much as 20 times. From the July post, these have mainly been edited for clarity and corrections, and the Force Matrix and Optional rules have been fixed up.

It is worth remembering that the 30 scenarios of the One-Hour Wargames book are key to the crisp, tight play of these rules - buy them if you don't have them, they're worth every penny [or pence]!

Any questions, just shoot a reply to this post - enjoy!

09/13/17 - FEUDAL WARGAME RULES: gaming the 90%!
A battle game for 1000 warriors a force on a 3x3-4’ table, A.D. 1000-1300 or so.

0.00 Grey Areas are resolved by defining the issue in “either/or” terms and rolling off, the “Triple-Zed Rule”.
0.1 Measuring may be done anytime.
0.2 Dice used are six-sided, with either 1-6 [D6] or 2-5 [D5] on the sides [the D5 “average dice”, has pips of 2, 3, 3, 4, 4, & 5, no 1 & 6]. Pick one to use for all game rolls. Due to this choice, dice are referred to as “Dx”.
0.3 Scale is 5-10 minutes of action / inaction; 5” = 40y [1”=8y]. A 25mm fig=20 / 15mm fig=10 men. A 3’ battle-field is therefore about 300y square, representing the decisive fighting area rather than the maneuver area.
0.4 Units represent 160 close foot, 80 knights/loose foot, 40 skirmishers [mounted or foot] in five feudal types:
a.    Knights or milites, are feudal nobles with mail, helm, lance, and shield on warhorses, supported by retinues.  They charge aggressively but lack cohesion and horse armor so are vulnerable to casualties.
b.    Serjeants or servientes, or mercenary stipendarii, are footmen with spear, shield and hand weapons. Those armored are in the front ranks, often stiffened with dismounted knights. Veteran captains, mutual support, experience and obligation to nobles or cities make them the best of the foot.
c.    Freemen or liberi are the lesser experienced and armed men of a province or town called to fill out the ranks, especially in sieges.  They’ve less élan but support the knights with numbers in solid groups.
d.    Bowmen are serjeants, liberi or mercenary stipendarii, with bow or crossbow, who may shoot volleys. They’ve enough missiles to endanger targets and affect the battle but avoid mêlée until they run out.
e.    Brigans or ruttae are bandits or camp-followers with knives, improvised weapons, throwing rocks, javelins, et al.  The best are fierce raiding warriors.  They harass from difficult terrain, charging vulnerable opponents. Also called ribauds, bidets, brigans, kerns, jacquerie, etc.
0.5 Figures & Basing. Units have a Front of 4-6” and a depth half that. I use single 5”x 2.5” bases with 3-5 mtd / loose order figs, 12-16 foot. WRG/DBx bases work on 12x6cm sabots, or any 2-1 Front-Flank ratio.
0.6 Base Width [BW] & Base Depth [BD] are used for measurements and must be in a 2-1 ratio. The BD measures a Unit half; more than half a Unit is needed for Line of Sight, terrain advantages, a protected flank, to shoot, a gap to shoot through, charge contact, and more. So whether 2.5” or 30mm, the BD matters!
0.7 Front, Flank & Rear are measured from Unit corners, 45° arcs off the sides Front, Rear or Flanks – left and right. A Unit’s Front center point shows if it is in and can Target a Unit’s Front, Flank or Rear Arc.
0.8 Bows are missiles propelled by a device, e.g. bows, slings, and crossbows.
0.9 Javelins are missiles thrown by a person, including throwing spears, javelins, hand axes and rocks.
0.10 Terrain has two types, Area and Linear.  Area are 6-12” per side or diameter.  Linear are 6-12” long x 1-3” wide. Units are Defending terrain if within Area terrain or lining the edge of intervening Linear terrain.
a.    Hills. Area.  Defensive bonus if within AND uphill of mêlée opponent. 
b.    Woods, Marsh.  Area. Only Brigans may enter. Defensive bonus.
c.    Camp, Village. Area. Defensive bonus.
d.    Lakes, Rivers, Cliffs, Board-Edge.  Impassible Area and Linear respectively.
e.    Walls, Ditch, Riverbank (at Bridge or Ford). Linear. Defensive bonus.
f.     Roads. Linear. Road move gives BD bonus & cancels terrain restrictions, [2.9]
0.11 Line of Sight.  Units must have LoS to a Target Unit at the time of a Shot or Charge. LoS is measured from a shooting or charging Unit's Front center point:
a.    To a BD of the Target Unit’s side within which the attacking Unit is located – it can only be in one!
b.    To Units lining the edge of Area or Linear terrain, and vice-versa.
c.    Up to a BD between Units across one side of or within Area terrain,eg woods, hill [crest / plateau edge].
d.    And requires a gap >BD through which to trace it. 
e.    And is obstructed by anything a figure height or taller, e.g. hills, woods and Units, but may be traced by a Unit on a height clearly taller and if the obstruction is closer to the Sighting Unit than the Target Unit.
LoS is blocked to a Target’s Flank if it has a friendly Unit beside it and under a BD away, [measure corners -  front to front and rear to rear]; obstructing terrain within the BD of a flank does the same. Note that as LoS is used for both Shooting and Charges, a Protected Flank restricts both.
PLAY SEQUENCE.  A full turn has each player taking four phases:
Attacker  [player A]: 1) Shoot, 2) Move, 3) Mêlée, 4) Rally
Defender [player D]: 1) Shoot, 2) Move, 3) Mêlée, 4) Rally

1.1 Shooting Basics. Bowmen and Brigans may shoot if they’ve a LoS [0.11] and are not in mêlée or out of missiles. Bowmen shoot in “Phase 1, Shoot”, while Brigans shoot in “Phase 2, Move” [2.8]:
a.    Range is 2BW for Bows, BW for Javelins, measured per LoS above.
b.    Bowmen that Shoot cannot move in Phase 2. Brigans that shoot in Phase 2 cannot Charge.
c.    Shooting into a Mêlée is permitted if there is LoS to a Targeted Unit’s side.
d.    Protected Flanks. These may not be shot as there is no LoS to them [0.11g].
1.2 Resolving Shooting. Roll a Dx for the number of Hits against the Target Unit, modified in order:
a.    Brigans shooting are -2,
b.    Terrain.  Units defending woods, camp, village or walls halve Hits,
c.    Armored.  Serjeants halve Hits from shooting,
d.    Unshielded or unprepared. Double Hits from Units shooting into a Target’s Rear Arc [cf. 0.7]. 
e.    Stacked Modifiers. The max benefit is ¼ Hits [1/2x1/2] and one halving and doubling cancel out.
f.     Round all fractions up. This increases the minimum number of Hits which accounts for fatigue.
1.3 Place an Attacked Marker on every Target Unit. Something red is easy to spot!
1.4 Missile Limit.  Brigans and Bowmen are out of missiles at 3 Shots - mark the Unit.
1.5  Remove units with 15+ Hits from Bowmen at the end of Phase 1, from Brigans at the end of Phase 2.

2.1 Move Basics.  Players sequentially; select a Unit, state if using the Fast bonus, then move the Unit in a straight line any part of the total, using Turns before or after the Move to change direction.
Class 1  Serjeants, Freeman, Bowmen         5”         Move  BD       Fast +BD        Road +BD
Class 2  Brigans                                             7.5”      Move  BW       Fast +BD        Road +BD
Class 3  Knights                                             10”       Move  BW       Fast +BW       Road +BD
2.2 Moves allow a Retreat [2.4c] or a Charge [2.7] and require a Turn to change direction.
2.3 Fast Moves are the same, but also require a Unit start / remain over a BD from all enemy Units unless Charging [2.7], in which case they may pass within a BD of enemy Units on their route to their charge target.
2.4 Turning. Turns are not measured but are movement; Units may rotate on their center up to 180° per Turn. While doing so, their corners and edges may pass “over” Units and any Terrain, but the Unit must immediately move clear, i.e. not interpenetrate [2.7]. Note this means a Unit may always rotate 180° [an “about face”]:
a.    Serjeants, Freemen and Bowmen may Turn once, at the start of their move.
b.    Knights may Turn once, at the start OR end of their move.
c.    Brigans may Turn twice, once at the start AND once at the end of their move.
2.5 Retreat from Mêlée is allowed for Units in Front contact with one Unit from a slower move Class; the Unit makes a  Fast Move straight back, ending facing the original direction.
2.6 Facing an Attacker is allowed if a Unit is in Mêlée contact with enemy Unit(s), none on its Front. It turns a full 90° / 180° to face one contacting Unit with its Front side.  Adjust enemy Unit bases to maintain contact.  If space is a problem, leave as-is and mark that side as the “Front” [cf. 0.5].
2.7 Gaps & Interpenetration. A gap of a BW is needed to fit between Units or terrain. Brigans may move through Brigans, but must end move clear of the stationary Brigans. No other Interpenetrations are allowed.
2.8 Shooting & Moving. Bowmen may not Move if they shot in Phase 1 [1.1b]. Brigans may Shoot before or after their Move [including all Turns] but may not Charge if they Shoot. 
2.9 Roads. Units that move entirely touching a road with any part of their base get a bonus BD distance.
2.8 Charging requires either a Front Arc LoS [0.11] to a Target Unit within a Fast Move away, OR that the Target Unit be within a BD of the Charger’s Flank Arc (measure from both corners). Fulfilling this, Contact is made by putting the units edge to edge for at least a BD long, centered as much as possible.
a.    A Charge to Flank is done by Turning the Charger then Contacting the Target with its Front as above.
b.    Contact is limited to four Charging Units, one on each Target side; Front, Rear and each Flank. 
c.    Brigans may only charge a Flank or Rear, and only if they did not Shoot. 
d.    Bowmen may only Charge when out of missiles.
e.    Protected Flanks. These may not be Charged as there is no LoS to them [0.11g].
f.     Side Edge Contact is allowed in cramped situations between Units and Terrain / Board Edge if:
                      i.        a Gap over a BD exists for an attacker to get thru, and,
                     ii.        the Charge Target will allow at least a BD of edge contact.
Mark the contacting side as the Unit’s [temporary] front. Rotate 90 so the Front Edge is in contact as soon as circumstances allow, e.g. an obstructing Unit moves. Using a side as front can also occur when melee Targets turn to face an attacker on their own turn or to prevent clever players from manipulating the rules!
The goal is to get Charging Units in full edge contact of at least a BD, despite terrain modeling, basing or sabots; also to reward flank protection while penalizing unprotected flanks and rear.  If disputed, cf. 0.00!

3.1 One-Sided Mêlée.  Units only inflict Hits during their own player turn and only on one Target Unit in Frontal Contact.  Mêlée includes lulls in action as both sides catch breath and exchange insults in close proximity.
3.2 Resolving Mêlée. Roll a Dx for each attacking Unit to get the Hits on the Target Unit, modified in order:
a.    Unit Types. +2 for Knights and -2 for Brigans and Bowmen. 
b.    Terrain. Units uphill, or Defending a ditch, riverbank, wall etc, halve Hits.
                      i.        Units defending woods halve Hits, but ONLY on the turn they are charged.
c.    Armored. Serjeants halve Hits.
d.    Unshielded or Unprepared.  Double Hits from Units Contacting a Flank or Rear.
e.    Stacked Modifiers. The max benefit is ¼ Hits [1/2x1/2] and one halving and doubling cancel out.
f.     Round all fractions up, even quarters, as for Shooting [cf. 1.2f].
Mêlée concludes with the elimination of Units or their Retreat from Mêlée [cf. 2.2]. 
3.3 Place an Attacked Marker on any Unit that was in Mêlée. Something red is easy to spot!
3.4 Remove Units as soon as they get 15+ Hits.

4.1 Rallying. Units eligible to rally off Hits due to this or an Optional Rule do so now. 
a.    Phasing Units that didn’t Shoot, Move or Mêlée may Rally off 1 Hit.
b.    If they ALSO do not have an Attacked Marker, they may rally off 1 additional Hit.
c.    If a Unit has 5 Hits or more, they cannot rally to below 5 Hits, i.e. the 5 Hits are permanent.
4.2 Attacked Markers for the Phasing Player’s Units are now removed.

6-Hit Unit Variant
Some find tracking 15 Hits a burden. This system reduces the number of Hits a unit has to 6, tracked with 1d6.
·         Units that inflict d6+2 Hits get 3 Attack Dice, d6 get 2 Attack Dice, and d6-2 get 1 Attack Dice.
·         All Units inflict a Hit with a roll of 3+ on an Attack Dice.
·         4.1 is changed to rolling 1Dx and rallying a hit on a 3+, none if they’ve an Attacked Marker, and if a Unit has >2 Hits it can’t be rallied to below 2 Hits.
·         Units are removed when their Hits are >6.
Some nuance is lost with this, but nuance of game mechanics is not really what OHW is about, anyway!
The optional rules will have the most trouble being adapted, but: approximate values are 2/6 Hits = 5/15 Hits, and a 5 Hit = 12 Hit / 7 Hit = 18 Hit Unit. Units that are a bit inferior hit on a 4+ with their dice instead of 3+.


These come in several types and their use is encouraged since so much of Feudal warfare was about people and personalities.  For every three Units in a force, a player may pick a personality figure.  All function as a Unit upgrade. If not in Mêlée, the Personality may transfer to another Unit within 6” at the start of the friendly Movement Phase.  If the Unit is destroyed, the personality is removed with the Unit.
·         A Knight Errant is a warrior with renowned personal fighting skill honed in battles and tournaments like William Marshal.  He inspires others with his skill so his Unit inflicts +1 Hit in Mêlée.
·         A Constable is a powerful Lord, such as Earl Robert of Gloucester.  He knows that fear and his willpower keep men fighting alongside him, so his Unit may Rally even if it Moved.
·         A Horse Marshal knows how to maneuver knights on a battlefield – he gives his Knight Unit an additional Turn at the end of movement.
·         A Bow Marshal is a renowned missile master, like Robert Boet or Benkin. He knows how to control and loose high-arc volleys so his Bowmen shoot an extra BW distance for 3BW altogether, i.e. 15”.
·         A Brabanter is a famous mercenary captain such as William of Ypres. He knows how to hire reliable veterans, so his unit may re-roll its hit dice in combat [but the result stands, even if worse!].
·         A Banner is an upgrade to any personality above.  The Banner is a prestigious symbol of the Personality that inspires his followers.  It allows a Unit to Rally despite an Attacked Marker [4.1b]. 
o   However, it does count as another personality.
o   The Personality, and his banner, must stay with one Unit of Knights or Serjeants for the battle.
·         A Christian Priest may be used to rally Dx bonus Hits [per 4.1b] once to one Unit, since he has a holy relic, standard, vigorous prayers, etc., however the Unit must obey the Rally rules. Remove the priest from the Unit once he’s inspired them, he’s tired and wants to go back to the monastery to pray!

Tired Units
Units that have passed ten Hits are Tired and -1 to all Dx rolls – Shooting, Moving and Mêlée. Use one Red die to mark the Hits.  This represents unrecoverable fatigue and casualties in a typical 10-15 turn battle.

Rallying undisciplined feudal warriors was difficult; instead of automatically rallying hits, use this rule:
·         Units eligible to rally roll a dice, losing 0 Hits on 1, 1 Hit on 2-5, 2 Hits on a 6.

Savings Rolls
Some love’em, others hate’em.  The good thing is that they reduce math and give a Unit a chance to endure [or collapse…] unexpectedly.  They also keep both players involved in a Turn.  Simply roll a d6 for each halving of Hits, saving on a 4+.  If they get two halvings [e.g. one for armor and one for terrain] then re-roll the failures.  

Missile Supply Variants
* Accepting some unpredictability, Missile Units run out of missiles if they roll a natural ‘5’.
* Missile Units that are well-supplied, e.g. defending fortifications, have a 4-Shot limit, not 3.

Battles often began with one side as the clear aggressor, making a series of attacks until fatigue or enemy resistance caused them to lose momentum.  To simulate this, the scenario Attacker has Initiative and goes first each Turn [if no clear Attacker, roll off].  But at the start of Turn 2 - and every Turn after - roll off adding +2 for the Initiative Side, who also wins ties.  If the Initiative side loses the roll, Initiative changes to the other side which goes first each Turn until it changes again.  Note this allows the side seizing Initiative to go twice in a row as the turn order changes, which could be a critical moment in a game.  While it is possible for Initiative to switch several times, it is likely to only change once or twice.  Additional options:
·         For less likelihood to change use +3 for the side holding Initiative, for more go with +1.
·         Subtract '1' from the players dice rolls for each friendly Unit removed.
·         Personality: Strategos has a one-time bonus of +3 to seize Initiative.

Trained Units
Some Feudal warriors were full time professional with a lot of experience working together.  Often, these were paid mercenaries who manned garrisons, but sometimes they were hired in large groups.  If using this rule, all Dx rolls are made with a d6, producing less dependable results for movement, mêlée and shooting.  Trained [T] Units instead roll a Dx, making them less spectacular [good or bad] but more dependable.

Force Morale
The 1HW scenarios have 6 Units per side as the norm.  This conveniently comes to rolling a Dx each time a friendly Unit is destroyed, attempting to roll equal or higher than the total number of friendly Units destroyed to keeping fighting. If you roll less your force routs and the game ends.  
·         As this shortens the game a lot, you can roll TWO Dx and keep fighting if EITHER roll beats the number of Units lost.  With a three or four Unit army, roll a Dx halved [round up]. 
·         You could also get a +1 to your roll if your opponent has lost more Units, emboldening your force to greater efforts, or a +1 if you still have a Personality on the board.
·         In a campaign game, allow the opposing side to get one last free attack as the army flees, or eliminate all Units that are in mêlée with a Unit of higher movement class.  
For more "period flavor", consider fun ways to gain a bonus point or two on the die roll, like winning a pre-game challenge, praying to God [or 'the gods'], fatigue from force marching to an objective, etc.

Diced Movement
Movement by Feudal units was not consistent as only a few in a given force would have had experience campaigning and fighting together. The blowing of horns, following of banners / standards would guide the warrior groups, but it wouldn’t be in a predictable timeframe [which is why drill has been historically practiced by more sophisticated professional armies]. To use diced movement, the following changes are made:
Class 1  Serjeants, Freeman, Bowmen         Move  3”         Fast +Dx”       Road +3”
Class 2  Brigans                                             Move  6”         Fast +Dx”       Road +3”       
Class 3  Knights                                             Move  9”         Fast +Dx”       Road +3”       
Javelins shoot 6” and Bowmen 12” [because the average move is longer].

Advantages and Disadvantages
It’s quite easy to alter the qualities of units to get more variety – note this will slow down the game. If used, both armies are permitted to improve a Unit with an advantage and downgrade a Unit with a disadvantage. No Unit should have better than +2 or worse than -2 in Shooting or Mêlée or have more than one advantage and/or disadvantage used upon it. Some suggestions:
·         Determined / Unenthusiastic: 18 Hits / 12 Hits,
·         Mêlée +1 / -1, Shoot +1 / -1, Extra Missiles for 4 Shots total,
·         Freemen / Bowmen that enter Woods, or only have 3 shots, or run out on a 5-6.
Example: an unpaid mercenary crossbow unit may shoot Dx+1 but have only 12 Hits. A German Knight Unit may Melee Dx+1 but have 18 Hits due to their slower, denser charge method.

Impetuous Charges
Units prone to impetuous charges, e.g. Knights, Warbands, sometimes found themselves a little farther away than needed to contact the enemy. Practice and desire often gave them that last little bit of distance, but it required real exertion and risked fatiguing men and horses. Allow the impetuous Unit to charge up to 3” farther, but take a Hit for each inch or part used, applied immediately. So using a 2.25” Charge bonus results in 3 Hits taken. This ability should be taken as a Unit Advantage.
If using this, balance this for by inflicting a Hit on a Unit using Retreat move.

Alternative Troop Types
It is not always clear from accounts how warriors were armed and how they used their weapons. Some flexibility is in order to take these into account.
·         Brigans with Bows / Crossbows – these Shoot 2BW distance, but only in Phase 1, like Bowmen.
·         Mounted Brigans – these are Brigans who Fast Move a BW but cannot enter woods. They usually had Javelins, but can arguably have bow or a light crossbow with the same effect.
·         Cavalry – these move as Knights, mêlée Dx and shoot Dx-2 as Brigans in Phase 2 [with javelins].

The OHW rules have six different diced forces a side with 3-4 core Units and three other Units that vary from 0-2 in each force, for 36 possible combinations! The below matrix suits the focus of these rules better. Knights and Bowmen predominate, with Brigans [to procure supplies, i.e. steal] and some Freemen who are the least common type, being expensive to feed and only useful at sieges.

                        Knights+         Bowmen*       Brigans          Freemen
Die roll            Core                Type 1                        Type 2                        Type 3
1                      1                      1                      2                      2            [Defensive or Siege type of force]
2                      3                      1                      1                      1            
3                      3                      2                      1                      0            
4                      4                      1                      0                      1            
5                      4                      1                      1                      0           
6                      4                      2                      0                      0         
+Knights may dismount before a game, becoming a Serjeants Unit instead – they may not remount.
*One Bowmen may shoot at Dx+1 as mercenary crossbows. Balance this by making one Knight mêlée Dx+1 as mounted Serjeants, or one Freeman mêlée Dx-1 as unwilling levy.

Some variations for interesting corners of the Angevin Empire and British Isles:
Anglo Irish: Core – Brigans, T1 Bowmen, T2 Knights, T3 Freemen.
Norse Irish: Core – Brigans, T1 Serjeants, T2 Freemen, T4 Cavalry [move as Knights, mêlée only Dx].
All scenarios should have an additional 8x4” wood placed fully within and against the edge of a square.

Scots Common Army: Core – Serjeants*, T1 – Brigans, T2 – Bowmen, T3 - Knights
*Scots Serjeants are schiltrons; Hits from mêlée are halved but not Hits from shooting.
Scots Isles & Highlands: Core – Serjeants, T1 – Brigans, T2 – Freemen, T3 – Bowmen
Any Bowmen and Freemen may be replaced by Brigans.

Early Feudal French or German: Core – Knights, T1 – Freemen, T2 – Bowmen, T3 – Brigans
Bretons: Core – Cavalry*, T1 – Brigans, T2 – Bowmen, T3 – Knights
*Cavalry move as Knights but mêlée Dx and shoot as Brigans [Try a Horse Master personality!].

North Welsh: Core – Freemen1, T1 – Knights2, T2 – Brigans, T3 – Bowmen
South Welsh: Core – Bowmen, T1 – Knights2, T2 – Brigans, T3 – Freemen
1 Any Freemen be replaced by Brigans; one may become Serjeants

2 Any Knights may be replaced with Cavalry, as Bretons above. 


  1. Do you have a set of 1HW variant rules for earlier Dark Ages about 600 AD-ish lurking somewhere, please?

  2. I will work out something specifically for that time, as I've a bunch of figs for it. However, the above rules are the Dark Ages rules, basically.

    Eliminate Knights and replace them with Warband, 9" move, Dx+2 melee, no shooting or woods move.

    Everything else is pretty much the same. Brigans are skirmishers. Make them fight Dx-1 and they are fierce native ambushers. The basic Infantry is the Serjeants who NT just calls infantry, but they would be late Roman Pedites and such.

    Hope that helps in the meantime. I assume you have the book so it's really the mechanics that take the most time and energy to work out, rather than the factors of the dice and unit names, which are from OHW or history.

    I will say - I've a "grand plan" set of rules that can be used for Rome thru the middle ages. One set will be skirmish, one set will be small battles and one set will be big battles. More on this in the near future!

    Happy gaming, A.


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