Ancient Warrior Battles (dead rules)

Please note, as of November 2012 I am not longer working on these rules.  A streamlined version, that I believe is a much better, plays faster and is still 90% these rules (mostly the combat mechanism was changed significantly).  The new version, an evolution of these rules is here at the Ancient Battlelines Clash page.

This is the ruleset I have written to be solo friendly, would play in less than 1 hour, preferably 30-40 minutes, on a 2'x2' table and give a good game with what I want in historical feel. I am using them to replay historical scenarios.  I have been writing this set since 2001, but in only really came together in 2012 after playing a great deal of fast play rulesets.

Brief Description
Movement in in centimetres, but all movement is in 4cm increments to match unit basewidths. Troops classified similar to Bill Banks Ancients (fairly standard to other rulesets but not too many classifications) but also have light, medium, heavy armour and close, loose, skirmish order. There is a concept of fortitude which is a single measure covering training, morale, staying power etc.  This affects combat and some tests.  Units are either high, average or low fortitude with the default being average. Orders are rolled for and given to groups or individual units.  Units are either disordered and/or depleted or destroyed.  If fired-on, a unit undertakes a test to see if disordered or depleted and also if they evade, charge or retreat.  Units charged take a test to see if they stand, evade or retreat or have the opportunity to fire back.  A unit may need to take a proximity test if an enemy gets close (similar-ish to enemy threat in Rally Round the King).  Melee results are opposed d5 dice rolls that will see one or both sides disordered, or one side depleted, retreating or routing. Units test for pursuit on retreating and routing units. Have only played a few times with them so needs a bit more testing. An detailed example of play is at the end of this webpage.

See this blog post for a comparison and comparative replays between Ancient Warrior Battles and some of its inspirations - Rally Round the King, Justified Ancients and Fast Ancient Battles (Bill Bank's Ancients for miniatures).

The rules (including a download link)
I have a good draft of the rules but I am still testing by replaying some historical battles. I have played a few of those games so version 1.7 (9 September 2012) can be found by following this google docs link.  Still working on army lists but should have somewhere around 50 to release by Christmas 2012.

Design principles
These are the design principles I used in writing Ancient Warrior Battles:
  • Solo friendly - increase uncertainty and remove as much decision making as viable.
  • Only two markers required in the game – disordered that can be removed, and depleted aka hit points that cannot be removed.  Most units would have two hit points.
  • Not IGOUGO - a unit would take its entire turn (move, missile, melee) bfore moving onto another unit.
  • Units would not have much freedom of movement.
  • There would be some command and control possibly by a support unit bonus modifier, forcing individual bases to be formed into units.
  • All distances are in centimetres and in multiples of 4cm to match the basewidth of my 15mm armies.
  • The game would allow for pushbacks and retreats.
  • The game would not require bases to align for combat.
  • Foot skirmishers would be removed from the board quite quickly and only have one hit point.
  • Only one d6 for all rolls and a high roll is always good.  
  • Only melee will be an opposed roll.
  • Variable actions in reaction to enemy events.
  • Javelins will have a range for skirmishers.  Other heavier units will not and be incoprated into unit melee factors.
  • There will be some sort of mandatory charge for warband and non-bow armd heavy cavalry.  

I have shelves of ancient history books but not that many on military ancient history.  Listed blow are some of the main secondary sources I referred to when writing the rules:
  • Greece and Roman at War by Peter Connelly
  • Battles of the Ancient World 1300 BC - AD 451, Amber Books
  • Warfare in the Classical World by John Warry
  • Greek and Roman Warfare - Battles, Tactics and Trickery by John Drogo Montagu
  • Great Battles of the Hellenistic World by Joseph Pietrykowski
  • The Ancient World at War edited by Philip de Souza
  • The Medieval World at War edited by Matthew Bennett
  • Fighting Techniques of the Ancient World 3000BC-AD500, Greenhill Books
  • Lost Battles by Phil Sabin
For those that want to know the process of how these rules came about then read on.

These rules were originally started in 2001 and came about while looking at producing a much faster version of Armati. Looking for something that played under one hour on a 2’ by 2’ board. I drafted up some rules that were a bit like Armati but combat was more like Bill Bank's Ancients.  Never played it but did pass time tinkering with it.

The first serious attempt was simply Armati Intro scale with 50pts.  This worked quite well but for friends and myself would still take at least 1.5 hours.

The second attempt was to play DBA.  After Armati, DBA felt like a fantasy game with troops moving everywhere.  And my friends liked distant shooting (although I’m non-plussed about it) and didn’t like the DBA abstraction.

The third attempt was Justified Ancients (JA).  While we liked the mechanics, it was a bit like DBA in that troops recoiled a lot and shooting distances were short. Also in Armati, damage always occurs (in melee, a hit is always scored on someone) so there is always a result.  JA seemed to go on longer than DBA.  Probably just us.

The fourth attempt was to modify Bill Bank’s Ancients to a miniatures game. This worked OK, but the troops types were not to our liking and troops were still too mobile (we did use some of the DBA mods available to restrict command and control).  Also, troops in contact could still shoot.

The fifth attempt was to use my original rules that had Bill Bank’s Ancients as a broad base and used Armati control but use Justified Ancients type combat and DBA terrain.  Some other features of Armati were also grafted (impetus the main one).  This worked OK but was still too long to play. The rules did hang together surprisingly well but had too many exceptions (trying to incorporate too much to make it feel a bit like Armati).

The sixth attempt moved closer to Bill Bank’s Ancients, disorder is king and has tighter Command and Control than DBA, but looser than Armati.  The troops types are more like Armati troop types e.g. skirmishers still removed on contact.  Game follows Bill Banks’ turn sequence. Command and control is a combination of Armati  and DBA.

The seventh attempt was Warrior Kings (updated as Rally Round the King).  One friend liked it, the rest did not like the lack of control of units compared to Armati, and bow ranges were still short (Armati has really long bow ranges!).  Ah well.

For face to face play, I have accepted defeat and play on a 3’ by 2’ board using Intro Armati 2 with many of the the 2008 rules variations and 75 points.  Takes up to 2 hours to play.

But I kept going as I still wanted a fast ruleset on a small table to replay lots of historical battles solo. After trying out lots of fast, and not so fast, play rules I wrote my own from scratch but incorporating elements and mechanisms that fit my worldview.  It is based partly on Bill Banks Ancients, has some command and control, uses Justified Ancients-like combat and troop description and does incorporate the concept of reactions - as found in Rally Round the King - to make it more solo friendly.  It also builds on all the learning of the previous rules writing.  But it is not really bolting these mechanisms together and making a new ruleset, more a new ruleset using concepts from these games where appropriate to assist in making the rules fit together.  I am hoping to use this to replay many historical battles on a  2'x2' table where it will take less than one hour to complete.  And play solo well enough to keep me interested in playing the battles.  I will know after a few games whether I have succeeded or not.

Example of Play
For those interested, here is a detailed example of play.

Deployment and troops

Deployment - Epirot to left, Roman to the right

The generals are just out of the picture so all units start within 20cm of general.  Generals are +0.

3 Legionaries: HI, CO, average fortitude, heavy armour, line relief (marked A, B, C from Roman right to left).
2 Italian infantry: LI, LO, average fortitude, light armour.

1 Warband:  LI, LO, average fortitude, light armour, impetuous.
2 phalangites: HI, CO, medium fortitude, light armour, phalanx (marked W, X from Pyrrhic right to left).
2 Skirmishers:  SI, average fortitude, light armour, bow (marked Y, Z from Pyrrhic right to left).
1 Cavalry – HC, LO, high fortitude, medium armour.

Roman turn
Activating from right to left.
Italian infantry do not move.

Legionaries move and proximity test
Legionaries roll to move straight ahead – rolls a 3 +1 supported =4.  Needed a 2+. Move the group 8cm.  They are within 4cm of the Skirmishers.  The Skirmishers roll a Proximity test – both roll a 3 +1 supported = 4 so they fire at the Legionaries.

Legionaries fired-on test
The Legionaries take a fired-on test. Legionnaire A rolls a 1 +1 supported +1 heavy armour =3 Stand and disordered. Legionnaire B rolls a 5+1+1=6 so charges. Legionnaire C will automatically pass and charge. Fired-on test is only rolled for matching pairs with any extra units fired on automatically passing.  Legionnaire B and C are in contact with the Skirmishers so the latter must roll a charged test.

Legionaries contact the skirmishers.  The marker behind Legionary A indicates disorder.
Skirmisher charged test
Skirmisher Y rolls a 1 +1 supported = 2 Fire and retreat. They retreat 6 cm (½ move).  The retreat disorders and depletes the Skirmisher; they can only take one depletion so are destroyed.  The Pikemen behind suffer no interpenetration effects - Skirmishers do not cause any interpenetration results. Skirmisher Z rolls a 6 +1 supported = 7.  Fire and Evade.  The evade takes them though the pike unit – a Skirmisher interpenetrating a close order unit is depleted, so the Skirmisher is destroyed.

Legionaries fired-on test
Time to resolve the fired-on test from the retreating and evading Skirmishers.
Legionnaire B fired on test is a roll of 1 +1 supported +1 heavy armour = 3 Chargers Disordered.
Legionnaire C fired on test is a roll of 6 +1 supported +1 heavy armour = 8 Chargers continue.

Legionaries pursuit test
Both skirmishers retreated/evaded so the Legionaries need to take a pursuit test.
Legionnaire B rolls a 4 +1 supported -1 disordered = 5 pursues (needed a 3+).
Legionnaire C rolls a 4 +1 supported = 5 pursues.
Legionnaire B and C contact the phalangites.

Pike charged test
Pike W charged test rolls a 2 +1 supported = 3 Stand.
Pike X charged test rolls a 4 +1 supported = 5 Stand.
In general, most non-skirmishers in good condition will pass a charged test.  Only if disordered and depleted is there a good chance of failure.

Legionnaire B close combat with Pike X
Legionnaire B rolls a 4 -1 disordered +1 supported +1 heavy armour Vs light armour = 5.
Pike X rolls a 1 +2 ordered phalanx to front +1 supported = 4.
Legionnaire B wins by 1.  Pike X is pushed back and disordered.  Legionnaire B also gets a disordered result, but as they are already disordered, this has no effect. Legionnaire B cannot follow up due to Pike W also in contact, they both stay in place.

Legionnaire C close combat with Pike W
Legionnaire C rolls a 6 +1 supported +1 heavy armour Vs light armour = 8.
Pike W rolls a 3 +2 ordered phalanx to front +1 supported = 6.
Legionnaire C wins by 2. Pike W retreats ½ a move (4cm) and is disordered and depleted.
Legionnaire C for pursuit rolls a 3 +1 supported =4 Pursues – right into the Warband unit.

Legionary A and B are disordered; Pike W is disordered and depleted.

Warband charged test
Warband takes a charged test and roll a 4, no modifiers.  The warband will count as charging in close combat.  On a 3 or less, it would not have, and not got the +2 charging bonus in close combat.

Legionnaire C close combat with warband
Legionnaire C rolls a 4 +1 CO Vs LO +1 heavy armour Vs light armour = 6.
Warband rolls a 6 +2 charging impetuous Vs foot = 8.
Warband wins by 2. Legionnaire C retreats ½ a move (4cm) and is disordered and depleted.
Warband pursuit roll is a 2 (2+ required as they are impetuous compared to the usual 3+) and recontacts Legionnaire C.
Legionnaire C close combat with warband (2)
Legionnaire C rolls a 5 +1 CO Vs LO +1 heavy armour Vs light armour -1 disordered -2 depleted = 4.
Warband rolls a 3 +2 pursuing =5.
Warband wins by 1 and Legionnaire C pushed back 2cm and both sides disordered. Legionnaire C already disordered so no effect.

Warband (disordered) with Legionary C (disordered and depleted)
Pyrrhic turn
Working from right to left.

Warband close combat with Legionnaire C
Legionnaire C rolls a 6 +1 CO Vs LO +1 heavy armour Vs light armour -1 disordered -2 depleted = 5.
Warband rolls a 1 -1 disordered = 0.
Warband Loses by 5 and routs.  Legionnaire pursue check roll is a 5 so yes.  Disordered and depleted do not effect move commands – only action commands.

Pike W rally
Try to rally Pike W rolls a 6. Required is 4+.  Disorder removed.  Depleted cannot be removed.  Disorder is important for pikes, only an ordered phalanx receives a +2 in combat.

Pike X close combat with Legionnaire B

Pike X about to close combat with Legionary B ,supported by Legionary C
Note Legionnaire B is now supported by Legionnaire C.
Pike X rolls a 4 +2 phalanx = 6.
Legionnaire B rolls a 1 +1 supported +1 heavy armour Vs light armour  -1 disordered = 2.
Legionnaire B lost by 4 and routs.
Pike rolls a 2 for pursuit. Needed a 3+ so the Pike unit stays where they are.

Cavalry charge
Cavalry does not have to mandatory charge LI as the LI are not classed as Heavy.  But will try to charge anyway, rolls a 6 +1 high fortitude =7.  Needed a 3+ so charges.

Heavy Cavalry charge the Light Infantry
LI takes a charged test and rolls a 3 +1 supported = 4 Stand.

Cavalry close combat with LI
Cavalry rolls a 3 +1 high fortitude +2 charging into foot = 6.
LI rolls 2 +1 supported = 3.
LI loses by 3.  The front LI unit retreats through the rear LI and the retreating LI is disordered and depleted.  Resolving interpenetration, the rear LI unit is disordered and the front (retreating) LI is depleted as it is already disordered from the combat (interpenetrating LO are disordered, or depleted if disordered).  This second depletion destroys the retreating LI unit.  This is how it normally goes for loose order units in echelon.  The rear LI unit moves up into the place occupied by the front LI.  Combat will occur next turn, which is now:
Roman turn (just the LI)
Cavalry close combat with LI
Cavalry rolls a 1 +1 high fortitude =2.The Cavalry do not get the charge bonus as they are not charging.
LI rolls a 3 -1 disordered = 2.
Tie: Carry on. Cavalry is disordered. LI would be disordered too if it wasn’t already.

Post combat - both are disordered.
End of example.


  1. Interesting. I like this kind of attrition system far far more than adding casualty caps 1, 2, 3 etc... You get different states depending on exhaustion, etc. Any chance you'll post the rules?

  2. I am just finishing off one last battle to ensure the rules are ok. Check back in two weeks, I will have posted them up by then. Hoping for next week but may get busy at work.