Ancient Battlelines Clash (rules)

Introduction
Ancient Battlelines Clash is the ruleset I have written to be solo friendly, would play in less than 1 hour, preferably 20-30 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, and in 2009 started to get a bit serious about them. But it only really came together in 2012 after playing a great deal of fast play rulesets.  The 2012 version was called Ancient Warrior Battles (AWB) and after a number of playtests, I streamlined the rules and replaced the combat results system and the rules became faster, clearer and lost no tactical nuances.  Significant enough evolved to change the name of the rules.  In 2014 I rewrote the rules as they were becoming bloated and halved the word count (see ABC October 2014 update).  I also added in a programmed opponent to make it even more solo friendly.

In January 2019 I wrote a Version 3.1 to address some issues I had with Version 2 but after a play or two was not satisfied.  A lot of mind searching and a few playtests later and in November 2019 a stable version 3.2 was published.  Some streamlining and light units are more fragile (see designer notes. In January 2020 I created version 3.3 that modified the unit terminology to be as per Bill Bank's Ancients and also created a specific Warband unit type.

I was still not entirely happy and rewrote the rules entirely  to use opposing d3 rolls and introduced more Justified Ancients type rules.  But after a few games I went back to 1d6 but incorporated some of the d3 rule changes into a revised version 3.3.  Version 3.4 s slightly more streamlined with some minor changes and a couple of less modifiers. Version 3.4 is in the process of being written and prof-checked.  I am going to continue playtesting, and still have not really tested them for post 1000AD. I don't consider these the final version, but they are close and do expect to keep tweaking.  3.4 is not published yet with an ETA for early 2021

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). There is a concept of status (fortitude in older versions) which is a single measure covering training, morale, armour, staying power etc. Units are either elite, average or poor status with the default being average. This affects combat and some tests. Missile protection is one of three ratings that affects how well a unit can take arrows and javelins.  Orders are rolled for and given to groups or individual units.  Units are either ordered, disordered or destroyed.  If fired-on, a unit undertakes a test to see if disordered and also if they stand, charge or retreat.  Missile-armed units that are charged take a test to see if they stand, retreat or 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 a single die roll with results that will see one or both sides disordered, or one side destroyed, retreating or routing. Units test for pursuit on retreating and routing units. Have played about 150 times with these and their predecessor (AWB) but still tweaking every now and then.  A detailed example of play is available in the rules.

See this blog post for a replay of 7 games with Ancient Battlelines Clash. See this blog post for a comparison and comparative replays between Ancient Warrior Battles - which is similar is a bit more convoluted than Ancient Battlelines Clash -  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)
These are version 3 of the rules written in April 2020.  Version 3 has quite a number of minor changes from Version 2 (changes are in the designer notes):

Ancient battlelines clash version 3.3b April 2020

(the older version 2 I used from 2014-2018 is available here: ABC version 2.4 FINAL March 2016.

Army Lists
Still working on army lists but as of April 2016, I have 86 army lists for 3000BC to 1000AD, including some Asian armies. I have plans for about another 50 or so, but am unlikely to get  around to them for a while. The only change of note from the October 2015 version is Hastati no longer have line relief.

google docs link to ABC army list 2.2 August 2016.

Only difference between 2.1 March 2016 and 2.2 August 2016 is fixing up many CV values that were missing.

Programmable opponent
I tinkered with a progammable opponent for ABC and it is now included in the main rules.  Here is a 2014 link to the blog page with an overview of five test games.  In 2015, I played 30 games in 30 days to test out the programmed opponent:

30 games in 30 days introduction
Games 1 to 5.
Games 6 to 12.
Games 13 to 18.
Games 19 to 23.
Games 24 to 29.
Game 30 - a very detailed AAR and retrospective.

30cmx30cm games
I have been toying with using ABC on a 30cmx30cm board, rather than the 60cmx60cm as designed. Mainly inspired by Neil Thomas One Hour Wargames with 4-6 units a side.  While I have not played it, here are my thoughts on it:

Changes are required to army size, distances, terrain setup and army deployment zone. No other changes are required.

Distances
Divide all move distances by 4 and measure in inches e.g. 8cm move is now 2"..  The only exception is maximum  wheels that are still 3cm and 6cm as per the rules for infantry and cavalry wheels.
This is fairly easy as all distances (but wheeling) are multiple of 4 anyway.

Armies
19 points.
No army lists exists for ABC 30x30 but using the existing army lists base troops, before random additions, give a good start to work on.

Terrain
Divide table into 4 areas.  Minimum/maximum terrain size is 6cmx6cm/12cmx12cm and no closer than 5cm from other terrain.

Deployment
Armies deploy within 6cm of rear table edge and 2cm from each side edge.

Other rules
Ancient Battlelines Clash Version 3 is an evolution of other homegrown rulesets.  They owe their creation to these other rules, usually under different names:

  • Ancient Warrior Battles.  These were the first rules I wrote.  The design principles, still relevant in the current ABC, were created for this ruleset.  It was a bit too complex and so was streamlined to create Ancient Battlelines Clash V2.  Ancient Warrior Battles blog page is here.
  • Ancient Battlelines Clash V1 and V2 (latest version was  V2.4 FINAL) - I played over 100 games with V1 and V2 and created the programmed opponent using these rules. Version 2 was simply a rewrite of version 1; version 1 had become bloated and was completely rewritten to be more succinct and more clarity with no rules changes. Version 2 had some minor niggling issues that became apparent over playing so many games.  Ancient Battlelines Clash V2.4 FINAL is here.
  • When Warriors Collide - more like rewrite of Bill Banks Ancients but using many of the mechanisms of Ancient Battlelines Clash v2.  A sideline from playing the boardgame Imperator but helped me resolve the issues I had with Ancient Battlelines Clash V2.  When Warriors Collide is here.
  • Ancient Battlelines Clash and When Warriors Collide combined - I combined the two rulesets, played a games and realised I preferred ABC as a basis of the rules.  Ancient Battlelines Clash V3 was written using ABC V2 as the base and then doing small changes from When Warriors Collide that resolved the issues I have with ABC V2. Ancient Battlelines Clash and When Warriors Collide combined is here.

Design principles
These are the design principles I used in writing Ancient Battlelines Clash:
  • Solo friendly - increase uncertainty and remove as much decision making as viable.
  • Only one marker required in the game – disordered - that is difficult or cannot be removed.  Most units would have two “hit points”.  Combat would be similar to Bill Banks Ancients (BBA) where another disordered result is no effect, and needs a high die roll to get a kill.
  • Not IGOUGO - a unit would take its entire turn (move, missile, and melee) before moving onto another unit.
  • Units would not have much freedom of movement.
  • 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 base width of my 15mm armies.
  • The game allows for push-backs and retreats.
  • The game does not require bases to align for combat.
  • Infantry skirmishers are 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. 
  • Variable actions in reaction to enemy events.
  • Javelins have a range for skirmishers.  Other heavier units do not, and will be incorporated into unit melee factors.
  • There is some sort of mandatory charge for warband and non-bow armed heavy cavalry.
  • Reaction tests to determine actions to enemy events.  

Sources
I have shelves of ancient history books but not that many on military ancient history.  Listed below 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
  • Fighting Techniques of the Ancient World 3000BC-AD500, Greenhill Books
  • Lost Battles by Phil Sabin
I did read some translated primary sources along the way - Plutarch, Herodotus, Xenophon, Ammianus Marcellinus, Livy, Tacitus, Caesar but only selective bits.

Example of play
The example of play has been updated as is in the rules.

Background
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.  Note that I really like JA and have played some games with it and even documented some house rules.

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. It sounds like it was closer to what we wanted, but wasn't.

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.  Mighty Armies: Ancients is another recent (2012 onwards) contender that is loads of fun and 30 minutes a game.  Some drawbacks but have enough historical feel to be OK.
 
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 did the eighth attempt and wrote my own from scratch in 2012 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. These were called Ancient Warrior Battles and available at this google docs link if anyone is interested.

Attempt number nine:  I used Ancient Warrior Battles about a dozen times in 2012 before realising they needed some work.  I streamlined the rules and replaced the combat results system and the rules and they became faster, clearer and lost no tactical nuances.  And I changed the name of the rules to Ancient Battlelines Clash. In 2014 they were very bloated and rewrote them from scratch and cut down wordage by 50% with 95% of the rules still intact. In 2015 I am happy with the rules after 100 playtests.

In 2016 I played my last game with Ancient Battlelines Clash version 2.  I have some minor issues with the rules but no idea how to fix them.  Two years later in 2019 after some detours I developed Version 3 that has some minor changes to the rules, mainly tidying up the melee modifiers, more disorders, a couple of simplifications on the reaction tests and leaders +1 for tests (instead of +2).

23 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this! I'm currently trying to write my own ruleset (starting from design goals which are very similar to yours) but I like your solutions so much that I'm starting to think that I could just wait and let you to do all the hard work :-D Thanks again!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the comments. The rule splay fine as they are but playtesting is always the largest part of rules writing and so I need to do a lot more. I am hoping playtesting will just tweak the rules; but you never know - last time I made the significant change to combat after about 20 plays.

    ReplyDelete
  3. SEXTO NOBLE DE KHARÉ5 April 2013 at 05:33

    This seems interesting! Solo friendly, fast battles are also my desire. Keep on the right work!
    Thank you.
    Regards from Spain.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment. I am working on an example of play that should be up soon. Of course, doing an example of play highlighted a couple of areas where the rules were unclear and needed a few words of clarification.

      Delete
  4. Good day Shaun
    Do you have an update on the army lists?

    ReplyDelete
  5. I am **this*** close to finishing of these lists in the next few days. I'm really playing around with formatting rather than the content. I have about 100 more in various stages of completion so if you have some specific requests, I can do a few of them in the next few days as well.

    Old Kingdom Egyptian
    Nubian
    Elam
    Hyskos and Canaanites
    Hittites
    New Kingdom Egyptian
    Media
    Later Babylonian
    Lydian
    Early Indian
    Massagetae
    Asiatic Greece
    Early Archemenid Persia
    Later Archemenid Persia
    Early Republican Roman
    Sassanid Persia
    Mid Imperial Rome
    Avars
    Lombards
    Later Saxon
    Umayyad Moslems
    Carolingian Franks

    ReplyDelete
  6. I would like a few Asian Lists (have big range of 15mm Asian figs) had for DBM & FOG lots of Asians
    Ming, Han, Korean, Vietnam so on

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. John,

      With no easy way to get to you (email etc) I have put up abut 22 army lists - there is a link to them just below the link to the rules in the page above.. No Asian ones yet, that may be a week or two away.

      Delete
  7. This is getting better and better Shaun. You suggested a while back I try Armati 2 for my 2mm Armies but having both RRTK, and Justified
    Ancients as my preferred rules ABC is the one
    I'm using more.

    Cheers for your hard work Shaun.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you very much for the encouraging words. I am hoping to do a whole bunch of testing over the next 6 months or so to finalise the rules. I think they are close and hopefully will require only a few tweaks here and there. So maybe in 2014 I will be mostly finished with writing them!

      I still like Armati 2 as my favourite for face to face playing, but ABC is turning out to be very fast and fun solo game! Luckily, as that was its design goal :-)

      Delete
  8. Hi
    I just stumbled upon your blog. I have never played Ancient war games but my friend has been trying to get me into 'late war games' however Ancient Rome is of huge interest to me instead. Do you have any intro information on the this because what I have just read on your blog has me even more interested however is probably also going a little over my head.
    my email is b.reale-cornel@live.com.au if you would like to reply to this.
    Thank you
    Ben

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hello!

    Question to 2.0p version...

    Why skirmishers are the most vulnerable units to disorder? Shouldn't they be rather resistant to such effect, thanks to their loose order fighting tactic?
    Mounted skirmishers suffer serious problem with that - they are disorganised (like all mounted units) while moving throug rough terrain (p.3). So second move in rough terrain destroy the unit?

    Anyway, Ancient Battlelines Clash is great ruleset (especially for all those that hate DBA with its monstrous multi-nested-conditions-and-exceptions in single sentences), nice to see that after 2 years (since first encounter, 1.2 version) it is still upgraded - keep it up!

    ..And don't forget to make army lists for late XV medieval.

    Regards from Poland!
    PaskudnyOrk

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your interest and kind words!

      Skirmishers are vulnerable to disorder -, although in loose order and harder to hit, there are not many of them. This makes them more fragile and by all accounts, did not last long on the battlefield. I have only played the rules a few times with horse archer armies but the skirmish rules seemed to hang together - so long as they do not get into melee, they are ok. And there are usually a lot more of them than their enemy. but it does need more playtesting. It has worked so far for the chariot and pike era armies.

      And you are right, the way the rules are written, a skirmisher moving twice in difficult terrain will be destroyed. I will change the rules to "when entering terrain you are disordered and clarify that once in disordering terrain, you are not disordered moving in it. Thanks for pointing that out!

      Delete
    2. Oh, and I will have a go on some XV medieval lists. No promises though as I am all the way back at testing Successor and Republican Romans!

      Delete
  10. Hi Shaun,

    Me and a friend have decided to switch from fantasy,scifi to historicals. We happened onto your site and give your rule set a try.

    We were toying with the idea of taken a greek city state each and duken it out but had a question for you.

    The army lists you provide for the classical Greeks includes peltasts but they don't have the missle ability. Most everything I've read says they would through their javelins and make a hasty retreat. Is this not true?

    Thanks
    Jonathan

    ReplyDelete
  11. Well spotted. Somewhere is the design notes I say I do not include short range missile weapons for peltasts. Looking, looking... page 16:

    "Missile weapons
    Javelins and other short range melee weapons that are used by other than skirmishers are incorporated into the unit statistics. It is assumed that many non-phalanx heavy and Medium Infantry carry short range weapons, and used them at short range. Those that do not have them generally have a low fortitude. Melee is considered a combination of short range missile firing (if used) and contact. Incorporating a distinct short range missile capability for all units that did so is beyond the scale of the game."

    So except for skirmishers, short range missile is included in the melee factors. Not just peltasts but there are no rules for Legionary pila (short range missiles). Lots of heavy infantry also carried javelins or equivalant and so I made a design descision to include all this short range missile fire into melee.

    I did peltast javelin fire in the very first draft of the rules years ago, but took it out as did not make really fit.

    However, there is nothing to stop you including short missile into peltasts. But if so, I would reduce their Combat Value by 1. The design tradeoff is that the peltasts should be able to melee (although not well!) against cavalry and poor heavy infantry. Giving them missile fire capability reduce this somewhat as they become more like skirmishers in the game. Ancient rule writing is all down to preference, interpretation and ingrained biases - so go with what you prefer!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks for the Reply Shaun. I noticed something else in your army lists that I had a question on. Several of your army lists have a 0 in the CV column. Did I download the wrong file or maybe it was corrupted?

    Thanks again
    Jonathan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well spotted! That is an error in the formula in the spreadsheet that I use to copy the army lists into a format that is then easier to copy into the Word template. I will fix it in the next day (maybe two) and post a new version up.

      Delete
    2. Hello Johnathan.

      I have updated the army lists with the missing CV values. Thanks for your interest and if you have any questions, happy to be contacted at:

      shaun AT wizkid DOT com DOT au

      Delete
  13. The army list has "Version 2.2" on the front page, but the header on other pages says "Ancient Battlelines Clash Army Lists V2.1".

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi, i would like to download the last version of your rules but the link is not working.
    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello,

      I can see the rules via the link and I have checked the permissions and so they should be downloadable. If you still have problems then just reply to this comment and I can arrange to email it to you!

      Delete