Battle Masters focuses on a battle between the forces of good, or The Empire, against the forces of evil, or Chaos, which is a combined army including forces from the Chaos and Orcs and Goblins armies of the Warhammer World.
It is played on a large vinyl mat which is painted to look like a battle field with large, almost 8-inch, hexes superimposed on it. A large number of plastic miniatures included in the game are similar in size and style to the Warhammer miniatures produced by Games Workshop. However, instead of individual bases, they are designed to be mounted on unit bases of 5 infantry or 3 cavalry miniatures.
The figures are all unpainted so they are ready for players to decorate anyway they wish. Also they come with some decals that are ready to be used out of the box on the figures. The decals mostly go on the shields of the various units. While not of the same quality and detail of other Games Workshop or equivalent miniatures of their time, they were still used by budget-minded gamers for other games as mass production meant they were significantly cheaper than equivalent miniatures. The miniature units and a few terrain pieces are placed on the vinyl mat based on the setup described in the senarios booklet.
The game play goes through a series of turns by drawing cards. When a card is drawn the unit or units whose picture is on the card is allowed to either move or attack. In some instances the card may show multiple units in which case one of them may be selected at the discretion of the player who the piece belongs to. Two special units exist with unique movement/attack rules, the Ogre Champion (Chaos) and the Mighty Cannon (Empire) are also mounted as individuals on the unit bases.
When an Ogre champion card is played the six ogre cards (three saying ogre moves and three saying ogre attacks) are shuffled and placed in random order the ogre must then move in the order of the cards (i.e. if the cards are in the order, moves, moves, attacks, moves, attacks, attacks) then the ogre champion must move and attack in that order.
The mighty cannon also moves and attacks differently from other units. The player who is the empire selects a target (the closer the better) and places the pieces at random between the cannon and the selected target. The cannon tiles are then flipped over if it shows a cannonball flying, move to the next unit, if it shows a cannonball bouncing the unit on that square takes one skull token (the wound system for the game) and continues to the next tile. If it shows an explosion the unit is destroyed and the cannon's turn has ended. In the event that an explosion happens right next to the cannon it is a misfire and the cannon takes a skull.